Offensive Humor

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bz panel 06-21-13bz strip 06-21-13Today’s Bizarro is brought to you by Language.

If you take a moment to think about what the first and last words the human species spoke or will speak, you’ll likely come to the same conclusion as this cartoon.

For years I’ve done a lot of thinking about “taboo” words in general. To the best of my estimation, profanity, cussing, cursing, whatever you call it, has its roots in archaic superstition. When I ask myself why certain words are off limits and how that tradition started, I can only think that it began in ancient times when certain words or ideas were thought to offend a god of some sort. Today, most modern people don’t give that as the reason that they are offended by certain language. The most common explanation is that “it doesn’t sound nice.” But is that not simply because we’ve been taught to believe those words don’t sound nice?

Clearly, it isn’t the idea behind the word or the context in which it is used––we can see that with the innumerable ways people use the F-word, without it having anything to do with copulation. It isn’t what it means, in fact, it is completely socially acceptable to use any other word that refers to the act of sex without offending anyone. Clearly, it is the F-word in and of itself that holds some kind of spell over us.

Many words that used to be considered taboo are now accepted in polite society: “hell” and “damn,” for instance. These words obviously have a religious origin to their once-taboo status. The F-word (and I must continue to childishly refer to it as such so that my blog will continue to be considered “family friendly”[sigh]) may well have joined those ranks because more primitive societies felt the need to ban sexually explicit language for fear that it would incite lasciviousness; the same reason that some cultures still insist that women be covered with tarps when out in public. We now understand that casual language and the sight of a woman is not what causes men to behave poorly; some men are simply idiots and will act like barbarians no matter what incentive they are given. I blame it on an imbalance of testosterone and I.Q.

In my opinion, profanity only has power over us because we grant it. I don’t believe that any words should be off-limits and I daringly raised my children with that in mind. When they were small, I didn’t sternly ban certain words but instead I explained to them that many people would think they were “awful children” if they used them. Further, I told them they could use any word they liked as soon as they were old enough to fully understand the consequences of their use. Lo and behold, they took my advice and learned to cuss only in the proper circumstances and in front of the appropriate people. Knowledge is power, especially for children.

I am happy to see that thinking logically, reasonably, and independently is a growing trend among modern people. I suspect that eventually profanity will go the way of animal sacrifices and rain dances.

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27 thoughts on “Offensive Humor

  1. I wish I could have explained cussing to my kids in that straightforward, pragmatic way. I think they’re sort of absorbing the general idea from my example, and – in a different way – their mom’s example too. No old person has swallowed their dentures in shock as of yet.

  2. I remember the day I learned what the F-word actually meant. I’m not sure if I can say it here, but I will anyway. I learned in my sophomore year of history (because I had an awesome history teacher) that it meant “Fornication Under Consent of King”. Basically, to keep down the population, people had to ask the king for permission to procreate. If he granted permission, he would post a board on their door with the word on it.

    Now, as my high school teacher was telling my class this, she wrote if on the blackboard to show us the acronym. And doing her rounds, our principal looked inside the door… She just looked at us with a “What the…” expression, but she as cool and just walked away without a word.

  3. Youth at Ouachita Baptist University (nee “College”), alma mater of Mike Huckabee, used to invent exclamatory words like “frap” in order to avoid saying the actual damned and damning and damnable word. Don’t know whether “Huckabee” itself is a morphed word . . .

    • My dad had a rather extensive vocabulary to replace the offensive words with. Everyone knew what he meant to say and we told him that he might as well use the words.

  4. Well said my friend, well said. And a couple of those taboo words are acronyms, including the “F-Word”. I feel we’ve gotten pretty lenient over the years though. But, I absolutely agree with you, and I love your cartoon! Too funny and true!

  5. Thanks, Dan! (I wrote you a short e-mail as well; I figured it wouldn’t hurt to thank you twice, though :)). I like the tiny saurian! For a cartoon it’s definitely funnier than having the caveman stub his toe against a rock.

  6. I have a personal anecdote about “The F Word”. For a short while, during the 1980’s ‘Golden Age of Stand-Up’, I tried going up on Open Mike Night at one of the less well-known comedy clubs in LA and try my hand at five minutes of funny. Unlike most would-be-Seinfelds, I never repeated material and would try something different each time I did it. I got one joke idea from a friend who had sadly told me his girlfriend had said to him “When are you going to learn how to #$%&?” And I told him he should’ve offered to sign up for a semester of intensive tutoring. And I made that into a joke in my five-minutes the next time. But after I got off-stage, the club owner (who had been a partner in a much more successful comedy club before he opened this one, so I considered him very professional), took me aside and warned me about my language. I was befuddled. I pointed out to him the other comics who’d said “#$%& this!”, “it’s #$%&ing stupid!” and “I’m so #$%&ed!” , and such and he replied (exact words, I’ll never forget them) “But you were using it as a VERB!”

  7. In this humble jazz pickle’s opinion that is one of your best ever. It’s right up there with “Joan of Arc burnt the steaks” and your more recent Clown Funeral.

  8. Dan,

    I’ll buy your book of parenting wisdom and give it to everyone, whether they have kids, are able to have kids, or not, or are kids. Thanks!

    John

  9. I really like reading your explanations about your cartoons. This one is really interesting to me because I feel exactly the same way you do. I also taught my child that all language is good, it’s just where and how you use it.

  10. If all profanity went away, the world would be diminished. When you hit your thumb with a hammer, you need the sweet relief that only a loud four-letter word can bring.

  11. Oddly enough, the Supreme Court has ruled on the use of the “F-word”. In Cohen v. California (1971), it ruled that epithets used as emphasis in (politically motivated) speech are constitutionally protected, thereby creating a new category: emotive speech. While the dissenting opinion stated that such epithets could constitute “fighting words”, the majority ruled that the state cannot make a word illegal and thus ban it from public discourse.

    The part of the case that amuses my students is, because the justices had not yet ruled on the use of the “F-word”, the lawyer making the argument in favor of its allowance was banned from using it, and thus had to refer to it as “that word” throughout the oral argument.

  12. Today’s Tribune-Review in Greensburg, Pa contained an offensive cartoon suggesting that God was hung over when he create man. I am offended. Why haven’t I seen a similar cartoon about Muhammed or the Muslims?

    Yes, it is bizarre, but is it your goal also to offend – to hurt? My God is an awesome God who has blessed me in so many ways – so many times. He is not “rock bottom” – He is rock solid! I will pray that you become more sensitive to all you readers while continuing your usual funny and bizarre look at our weaknesses.

    • The cartoon was not meant to deride “god” or offend believers, but to comment on how horribly humans have treated the earth and its billions of species.

      By the way, that cartoon DOES feature the “god” of Islam. Their religion, just like Christianity, is a spinoff of ancient Judaism, so all three have the same supernatural being at the helm. Muslims believe the prophesied, human messiah was Mohammed, Christians believe it was Jesus, Jews think guys (and others) were false prophets and that the messiah is yet to come. You have a one-in-three chance of having been conveniently born into the correct culture. Unless none of those three is right and the Hindus (or any number of hundreds of other religions) have the whole thing figured out correctly. It’s sort of Russian roulette with your soul.

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