Thursday, August 20, 2009

What The Fundie !@?#@?! ....

I've recently learned that among a group of high school girls, mostly from very conservative religious backgrounds that discourage swearing, premarital sex, drinking, and all other manner of "immoral activity," the words giving rise to the ubiquituous WTF acronym have changed to "What The Fag?".

I find myself pretty offended by this, just as I am by the somewhat more common "That's so gay!"

It's pretty clear that none of these usages are meant as compliments or even neutral assessments. How would the NAACP and others react to "What The 'Fro?!"?

In replacing one of the magic seven words you can't say on television, some of the original tarnish rubs onto the replacement. It's never a Good Thing.

I lived through the '50s, '60s, and '70s to watch the racial epithets of previous generations finally become unacceptable. They didn't go away; they just became incorrect in the company of larger and more diverse groups. By becoming "politically incorrect," in some ways the explosive power of the words was enhanced. You know something has really gone kablooey when one of those words makes it out into the public air — the canary in the mineshaft has just become the 800-pound gorilla.

Similarly, ethnic disparagements have also mostly disappeared or gone underground. They have joined the racial word bombs as examples of incorrectness in action.

These historical cases are now "incorrect" in that same sense that you can talk about "correct English" and "correct spelling" — the invisible hands of culture have rewritten the social discourse style books. The politics of the times helped hasten their move to the other side of the ledger — they are now seen (at least) as indicators of negative attributes or ideas rather than neutral slang. (Note: I don't personally think any of this was ever neutral but it was often excused that way.)

In a manner similar to the way African-Americans appropriated "black" and turned it into a strength during the civil rights battles, the homosexual community has commandeered "gay" and "lesbian" to gain some power in its class war struggles.

In all these cases, something has been lost or, at least, changed in the process. "Gay Paree" doesn't connote — or denote — what it used to. "Spic & Span" can be saying more than just how clean something is. It's dangerous to use the word "niggardly." A fag isn't even a cigarette anymore. But I think the balance is OK; in fact, more than OK — we've gained much more than we've lost. I'm glad that minorities have found ways to rally around a common cause when necessary with terms they can support. Language changes; people change. Sometimes in that order, sometimes the reverse. Sometimes the change is for the better; sometimes not. Holding onto what's comfortable or "what we've always done" isn't always the wisest course.  

Now, name-calling is never a very nice thing. But sometimes one get so frustrated that nothing else is left.

So, in the tradition of politically incorrect epithets for very occasional use, I'm nominating "What The Fundie?!" What's a fundie? A fundie is similar to a fundamentalist but STUPID. And that's what WTF?! is usually about.

Maybe I'll get the t-shirt.



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