Chasing Linguistic Perfection — Armchair Philosophy

We all use words we shouldn’t, and that’s okay. Except that it isn’t. But it’s okay. Except that it isn’t. Repeat ad infinitum.

Episode script:

Let’s talk about words.

After launching the last episode of this show, I noticed something I had done:

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So there’s me being casually ableist. Lame. Crazy.

In life, we often use some pretty shitty terminology to describe things. 

If something is ridiculous, many call it “retarded.”

If something is less than they’d like, a lot of people call it “gay”.

I grew up around people casually using the word “jewish” or using “jew” as a verb to describe somebody being cheap.

These learned, and they are learned, verbal habits are pretty tough to get rid of. 

My wife teaches special needs kids, and it took me a few years to eliminate “retarded” from my vocabulary as a casual epithet. 

While I never used a word like “Jewish” to describe things in a derogatory manner, I did start to notice some words I used casually that I probably shouldn’t, and I started to work toward not saying them.

Now the anti-PC crowd is firmly against this, but if your entire platform is “freedom of speech” means I get to use racial slurs, you’re probably not watching a show called Sofa Justice Warriors.So instead, I’d like to address the pretty pervasive idea that we should all already be perfect.

I try my ass off not to casually use language that puts people down.

If I want to put you down, you’ll know it. Lookin’ at you, 2017-era Nazis. How the fuck are you a thing?

But sometimes it slips in there. Lame. Crazy. To describe a movie, or an attitude, I just casually put down people with disabilities both physical and mental. Was that really necessary for me to do?

But I keep hearing the argument that “my side,” and I can’t imagine what that is, even, when people say it, but I’m guessing it’s people who are trying to exercise common human decency, 

keep eating each other whenever one of us misspeaks, or uses damaging language as a matter of course.

And we do. And that’s good. We should remind each other not to say things that hurt people.

And now I’d like to talk about responding to these reminders.

There are two ways people respond to being told they did something wrong.

One, is to deny. “No I didn’t!” That’s what five-year-olds do. Sadly most of us were never taught not to do this, and almost any time anybody is called out on something shitty they did, this is the first response. We’re gonna’ call that response “fuck you,” for the purposes of this discussion.

Hey! You did a thing! No I didn’t! Fuck you!

It’s natural. I get it. If you can argue your way out of having done a thing, you don’t have to feel bad for having done that thing. And who wants to feel bad?

Well, nobody, but feeling bad about doing bad things, however small, is how we grow.

The second way to respond, which rarely happens, isn’t what you might think I’m going to say it is.

It isn’t “I humbly apologize for my actions and will strive in the future to be a better person.” That’s PR-speak. That’s robotic.

Honestly, if you immediately respond that way, I’d be way more afraid of you than if you’d have just said “fuck you” the way most people do.

No. The second way to respond is with, and stick with me here, “Oh, shit!”

The realization that we’ve done something wrong, and the recognition that we are responsible for having done that.

And in this armchair philosopher’s opinion, this is the correct response. Growth follows from there.

Nobody needs you to be perfect right away. Nobody’s asking you to be linguistically perfect all the time always.

All anybody wants, is for you to strive for that perfection, and when reminded that you haven’t reached it, not explain it away.

Nobody cares what you think justifies the shitty thing you did. Just remember: Don’t say “fuck you.” say “Oh, shit.”

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