Offensive Words, Political Correctness, Language and Society, and "Censorship" - VeggieBoards - A Vegetarian Community
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#1 Old 03-04-2012, 08:56 AM
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In the Community Assitance forum there was a short-lived discussion about the possibility of adding a word to the list of words that are "censored" on VB. By censored, I mean that the forum's software automatically changes the word to a series of asterisks but that the word can still be typed and upon quotation the word is seen in the original form. People can type whatever they want, but the forum software will sort of "bleep out" the offensive words.

A number of people argued against adding any more words to the list. As far as I know there are very few words on the list (not sure if there is an official list of the words that are censored but maybe that would be a good idea). I don't even think the N-word is on the list!

Anyway, my impression from that thread was that:

a - many people didn't even understand why that particular word was offensive (here is a link that can help explain why the R-word is offensive)

b - many VBers argued against the concept of censorship as if their free speech rights would be violated if their use of the R-word were stigmatized with a set of asterisks, clearly indicating that many people confuse the issues of free speech with the issues of civility and community-building

c - it seems to me that there needs to be more discussion about the actual power of language
and
what as a community we want to encourage/discourage

Thus, I'm opening this thread to talk about those issues. As a start, I will ask how do you define censorship and why do you use that definition?
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#2 Old 03-04-2012, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by ElaineV View Post

As a start, I will ask how do you define censorship and why do you use that definition?

The government preventing citizens from using certain expressions or expressing certain viewpoints. There can be no censorship in any privately owned context, whether it be a guest house or a message board such as VB, if the restriction of free expression comes from the owners, who are entitled to decide what purposes they want to use their property for.

Why do I use this definition? Because it's the coolest definition in town. If definitions could wear fashion accessories, my definition would wear edgy sunglasses.

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#3 Old 03-04-2012, 09:53 AM
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Originally Posted by ElaineV View Post

In the Community Assitance forum there was a short-lived discussion about the possibility of adding a word to the list of words that are "censored" on VB. By censored, I mean that the forum's software automatically changes the word to a series of asterisks but that the word can still be typed and upon quotation the word is seen in the original form. People can type whatever they want, but the forum software will sort of "bleep out" the offensive words.

A number of people argued against adding any more words to the list. As far as I know there are very few words on the list (not sure if there is an official list of the words that are censored but maybe that would be a good idea). I don't even think the N-word is on the list!

(Emphasis added.)

Let's test out that assumption.

I'm quoting from Wikipedia's article on ****** as a topic:
Quote:
In the US, the recurrent (reading curricula) controversy about the vocabulary of the novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), by Mark Twain American literature (usually) taught in US schools about the slave South, risks censorship because of 215 (counted) occurrences of the word ******, most refer to Jim, Huckleberry's escaped-slave raft-mate.[31][32] Twain's advocates note that the novel is composed in then-contemporary vernacular usage, not racist stereotype, because Jim, the black man, is a sympathetic character in the nineteenth-century Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The book was re-published in 2010 with edits removing "the 'N' word" as reported in Time online.[33] The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been the subject of controversy in Arizona, where a parent group's attempt to have it removed from a required reading list was struck down by the court.

Moreover, unlike the literary escaped slave Jim, antebellum slaves used the artifice of self-deprecation (known as "Uncle Toms"), in pandering to societal racist assumptions about the black man's low intelligence, by advantageously using the word ****** to escape the violence inherent to slavery.[34] Implicit to "Uncle Tomming" was the unspoken reminder to white folk that a presumably inferior and sub-human person could not, reasonably, be held responsible for poorly realized work, a kitchen fire, or any such catastrophic offense. The artificial self-deprecation deflected responsibility, in hope of escaping the violent wraths of overseer and master. Using ****** as a self-referential identity term also was a way of avoiding white suspicion, of encountering an intelligent slave, and so put whites at their ease. In context, a slave who referred to himself, or another black man, as a ****** presumed the master's perceiving him as a slave who has accepted his societally sub-ordinate role as private property, thus, not (potentially) subversive of the authority of the master's white supremacy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/******
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#4 Old 03-04-2012, 09:59 AM
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Originally Posted by ElaineV View Post

In the Community Assitance forum there was a short-lived discussion about the possibility of adding a word to the list of words that are "censored" on VB. By censored, I mean that the forum's software automatically changes the word to a series of asterisks but that the word can still be typed and upon quotation the word is seen in the original form. People can type whatever they want, but the forum software will sort of "bleep out" the offensive words.

My post immediately above seems to indicate that the N-word is bleeped out by the VB software. I'm not sure I understand what your "upon quotation" clause means or how that works, since the word was "bleeped" both within and without the quotation box.
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#5 Old 03-04-2012, 10:02 AM
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(Emphasis added.)

Let's test out that assumption.

I'm quoting from Wikipedia's article on ****** as a topic:


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/******

Test. When I quote my own "bleeped" text, the asterisks still appear.
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#6 Old 03-04-2012, 10:06 AM
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Call me a square but I see nothing wrong with the Wikipedia definition: "Censorship is the suppression of speech or other public communication which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient to the general body of people as determined by a government, media outlet, or other controlling body."

I see absolutely nothing wrong with communities that you join and belong to purely voluntarily having rules concerning language use, and I'm not sure how people can still think using words like "retard" or "faggot" as insults is acceptable.
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#7 Old 03-04-2012, 10:15 AM
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As I mentioned on the other thread, I try not to use the word "retarded" anymore as it is offensive IMO. I started saying it as a insulting term for a stupid person but I'm trying not to use it but quite a few people I know still use it or the word ****tard. I don't think the people I know that use those terms even mean to refer to a person with a disability though.

In the UK I don't think we use the word "retarded" in a clinical sense.
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#8 Old 03-04-2012, 10:17 AM
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As long as we are testing the software, let's try the "Carlin Seven" dirty words and see what happens:

Quote:
George Carlin's Seven Dirty Words

The big seven words you weren't allowed to broadcast were: ****, Piss, ****, ****, ********er, Mother****er and Tits.

http://www.erenkrantz.com/Humor/SevenDirtyWords.shtml

ETA: Two out of seven survived unscathed. Blimey!
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#9 Old 03-04-2012, 10:22 AM
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The use of the R word drives my wife insane. She worked at a middle school for 7 years... part of the common vocabulary for a lot of them. She (we actually) both worked at group homes while in college for developmentally delayed adults.

But like many words it can be used either as a derogatory comment or not, depends on the context and no way a word filter will solve that problem.

On a political board I used to frequent the term "Nazi" became so overused the admin of the site changed the word filter to replace "Nazi" with "fun luvin German".
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#10 Old 03-04-2012, 10:38 AM
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People need to understand there's a difference between censoring clearly offensive language and censoring a potentially offensive idea. For example, there's a difference between saying "I hate those stupid faggots who think they can get married! All those dykes too, they're gonna all be in hell!" and saying "I do not believe in the marital rights of homosexuals, and interpret the scripture in a way that suggests they will end up in hell rather than heaven." Censoring the first one is okay, because the person is obviously just trying to make people angry. The second, while a hateful opinion to a large majority of people, still is a clearly expressed opinion and makes no attempt at name-calling, hence why even though it is disagreeable, it would be wrong to censor it.

The same way that freedom of speech allows us to talk smack about the president, while obviously we can't assassinate the president without punishment. Freedom of expression goes far enough to allow ideas and opinions to be expressed, even rude ones, but when you take it so far that you're just trying to offend people, then something should be done.

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#11 Old 03-04-2012, 11:23 AM
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The same way that freedom of speech allows us to talk smack about the president, while obviously we can't assassinate the president without punishment.

Are you trying to compare hateful speech to assassination? That's a bit over the edge, don't you think.


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Originally Posted by ElaineV View Post

b - many VBers argued against the concept of censorship as if their free speech rights would be violated if their use of the R-word were stigmatized with a set of asterisks, clearly indicating that many people confuse the issues of free speech with the issues of civility and community-building
[/B]

No, it's still censorship. Censorship can come in many forms and have many different functions. Censorship for the sake of community building or civility is still censorship. We should at least be able to call it what it is, while also understanding that certain forms of censorship are more objectionable than others. It's similar to how people think of the word "discrimination". It has a negative connotation, but as a general principle is entirely acceptable and something we all engage in everyday. The word filtering on veggieboards is obviously, functionally a system that censors or hides words. It baffles me that you describe it as "stigmatizing" when the actual, literal function is to cover up a word.

Some people mention how the word "retard" is offensive, but I don't understand the need to block the word (or others) because name calling (unless I'm mistaken) is already against the rules of this board. If I call someone "stupid", let alone a ********er, I'll probably get a warning. Rack those up and you get banned.
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#12 Old 03-04-2012, 12:05 PM
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We can say crap, but not ****. There is currently a media frenzy over the use of the word, slut, yet here at VB, it's used with great affection. I think this demonstrates the arbitrary nature of censorship. It's been suggested that those words censored at VB are done so, not for moral or asthetic reasons, but because of a technical firewall protocol. I don't know if this is so or not.

a. Retarded, retardation and even retard (as a verb) are valid words with legitimate meaning over, beyond and before any derogatory use they might be put to. I work most every day with mentally challenged people, and I love them dearly, but I don't associate them or their personalities with the labels we're required to assign them. They are more than what society may call them. To be particularly offended by the illegitimate use of these r-words seems to me an arbitrary reaction, ill-considered and probably rooted in emotionalism. To strike them from our vocabulary would overall be retrograde- that is, would retard- good communication, and would be a surrender to the ignorance and hatred that typically spawn their illigitimate use.

b. As I said in the earlier thread, the issue isn't language, but behavior, and, considering it takes a complete sentence to complete a thought, I don't see how killing a word is going to change anything. What difference, whether you (or anyone else) is called stupid, slow-witted, a moron, backward, or, for the sake of our British friends, a twit? They're all personal attacks, which are forbidden, and after all, it's the thought that counts. The language is rich enough that communication, for good or ill, will find a way, or shall we have a vocabulary, where all words with any possibility of negative connotation are buried?

In the meantime, we have a board of moderators, whose job it is to restrict individual bad behavior.

In another meantime, restricting words, particularly ones that have legitimate use, places an undue burden on those who would use them well. I think the majority of us are well-intentioned and shouldn't be censored, because of a few punks.

c. There is no doubt about the potential power of language, for good or bad, but I also think that anyone who hangs that potential on the equivocal meaning of a single word has a faulty grasp on their language- and its power.

As for community-building, I would foster one that puts its trust in its members, rather than its doubts.

***

To define censorship- something I've never done before- I would say it's an arbitrary suppression of communication, intended- but usually failing- to advance someone's agenda.

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#13 Old 03-04-2012, 12:07 PM
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There's really no word that's used in a negative way that isn't offensive to someone. Saying "lame" could be offensive to people who have lost limbs. "Stupid" could be offensive to people that recognize they're below average intelligence. Right now "gay" and "retard" are being attacked as the most politically incorrect words that are widely used, as racist slurs were prior to this. I'd assume the B-word and slut/whore would be next. Honestly it doesn't matter -what- word is being used, what matters is the context in which it's being used. Calling someone retarded is an insult in the exact way calling them "lame" is. It's not meant to attack those who are actually defined by it, and if someone does do something like call a homosexual "gay" as if it were a negative thing, then in that case it should be considered politically incorrect, offensive, and wrong.

It's all about the context in which the word is used.
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#14 Old 03-04-2012, 12:25 PM
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Originally Posted by ElaineV View Post

In the Community Assitance forum there was a short-lived discussion about the possibility of adding a word to the list of words that are "censored" on VB. By censored, I mean that the forum's software automatically changes the word to a series of asterisks but that the word can still be typed and upon quotation the word is seen in the original form. People can type whatever they want, but the forum software will sort of "bleep out" the offensive words.

A number of people argued against adding any more words to the list. As far as I know there are very few words on the list (not sure if there is an official list of the words that are censored but maybe that would be a good idea). I don't even think the N-word is on the list!

Anyway, my impression from that thread was that:

a - many people didn't even understand why that particular word was offensive (here is a link that can help explain why the R-word is offensive)

b - many VBers argued against the concept of censorship as if their free speech rights would be violated if their use of the R-word were stigmatized with a set of asterisks, clearly indicating that many people confuse the issues of free speech with the issues of civility and community-building

c - it seems to me that there needs to be more discussion about the actual power of language
and
what as a community we want to encourage/discourage

Thus, I'm opening this thread to talk about those issues. As a start, I will ask how do you define censorship and why do you use that definition?

Generally, I do not support censorship of any kind. I think free speech should always--not some times or in certain/most situations--be free. I believe that, in a healthy democratic society, censorship has no place. Civility should be voluntary and something to be encouraged but not enforced. The moment you enforce civility is when it comes censorship and a violation of free speech.

I also am not sure what good this idea of censoring the "r-word" does. I've experienced people using the phrase "mentally challenged" as an insult as often as the r-word so what good is it doing really? People are going to use the most efficient word to get their slur across.

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#15 Old 03-04-2012, 12:27 PM
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I had a long response, but I will just say "I'm with Capstan".

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#16 Old 03-04-2012, 03:26 PM
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My post immediately above seems to indicate that the N-word is bleeped out by the VB software. I'm not sure I understand what your "upon quotation" clause means or how that works, since the word was "bleeped" both within and without the quotation box.

You're right. Someone elsewhere mentioned two words that were bleeped out and the impression I got was those were the only ones, but I was wrong. Regardless, that's not the point of thise thread.
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#17 Old 03-04-2012, 04:10 PM
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It baffles me that you describe it as "stigmatizing" when the actual, literal function is to cover up a word.

Most people can still figure out the meaning even with a word blocked out. It's not redacted or truly obscured (except to bots or search engines or firewalls, etc). The meaning is not lost or altered. It will still be offensive to some people. But when it's bleeped out, that's a symbol that conveys that "this word is offensive to most board members or the board owner". It stigmatizes the word as well as the person who uses the word by announcing "this word is not acceptable here."

Quote:
Originally Posted by AlainWinthrope View Post

Some people mention how the word "retard" is offensive, but I don't understand the need to block the word (or others) because name calling (unless I'm mistaken) is already against the rules of this board.

In the case of the r-word, the reason to bleep it out is more than mere name-calling:
Quote:
the pejorative forms, “retard” and “retarded” have been used widely in today’s society to degrade and insult people with intellectual disabilities. Additionally, when “retard” and “retarded” are used as synonyms for “dumb” or “stupid” by people without disabilities, it only reinforces painful stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities being less valued members of humanity.

Emphasis added. Link: http://www.r-word.org/r-word-why-pledge.aspx


Name-calling may well be against the rules already, but name-calling requires reporting in order to have consequences. With an auto-censor, there's no need to rely on members to police eachother and constantly educate eachother about the issue. An auto-censor is immediate, it's fair, it's easy.
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#18 Old 03-04-2012, 04:32 PM
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Are you trying to compare hateful speech to assassination? That's a bit over the edge, don't you think.

I was only comparing them in terms of extremes - being rude is nowhere near as bad as killing somebody.

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#19 Old 03-04-2012, 04:51 PM
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Regardless, that's not the point of thise thread.

What IS the point?

If there's a fault, it lies with the medical profession- the doctors- for trying to assign these words to a condition(s) to which they don't apply. Retard means, to slow. Suppose we want to discuss setting the timing on an engine? Without the word, retard, it would be difficult to do so. Elaine, you should have more consideration for those around you, who may have interests beyond your own.

If you want to fix a problem, go to the source: censor the doctors, before you censor the general public.

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#20 Old 03-04-2012, 04:53 PM
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What IS the point?

If there's a fault, it lies with the medical profession- the doctors- for trying to assign these words to a condition(s) to which they don't apply. Retard means, to slow. Suppose we want to discuss setting the timing on an engine? Without the word, retard, it would be difficult to do so. Elaine, you should have more consideration for those around you, who may have interests beyond your own.

If you want to fix a problem, go to the source: censor the doctors, before you censor the general public.

Oh, like you can't just say "slow" instead.

The engine was retarded. The engine was slowed down.

One of these things is not like the other, because one of these things is extremely offensive to a group of people.

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#21 Old 03-04-2012, 04:55 PM
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Oh, like you can't just say "slow" instead.

The engine was retarded. The engine was slowed down.

One of these things is not like the other, because one of these things is extremely offensive to a group of people.

vegkid is slow. Is that offensive? Probably depends upon the context it's said in. Not saying your slow just in case you got offended.
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#22 Old 03-04-2012, 05:14 PM
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vegkid is slow. Is that offensive? Probably depends upon the context it's said in. Not saying your slow just in case you got offended.

Slow would imply an impairment of ability to understand something in the amount of time considered normal when understanding said thing. It can be used to refer to those with disabilities, but is not used in that context nearly as often.

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#23 Old 03-04-2012, 05:14 PM
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People who take offense at a word aren't slow, but too quick for taking offense. Their's is a reaction, not a considered response.

"There is more wisdom in the song of a bird, than in the speech of a philosopher...." -Oahspe
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#24 Old 03-04-2012, 05:21 PM
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People who take offense at a word aren't slow, but too quick for taking offense. Their's is a reaction, not a considered response.

So you're saying I should just go up to a black guy and use the N-word right now, and then act surprised when he gets offended because after all it's only a word and he's just reacting without considering that?

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#25 Old 03-04-2012, 05:26 PM
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#26 Old 03-04-2012, 05:43 PM
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So you're saying I should just go up to a black guy and use the N-word right now, and then act surprised when he gets offended because after all it's only a word and he's just reacting without considering that?

Don't be ridiculous. I'm suggesting you put some thought into what you do, including how you respond to the ignorance of others. And, if you're going to put words in my mouth, at least try not to portray me as hysterical, vegkid.

Have you ever considered studying automotive repair? I could use a good mechanic.

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#27 Old 03-04-2012, 05:45 PM
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People need to understand there's a difference between censoring clearly offensive language and censoring a potentially offensive idea. For example, there's a difference between saying "I hate those stupid faggots who think they can get married! All those dykes too, they're gonna all be in hell!" and saying "I do not believe in the marital rights of homosexuals, and interpret the scripture in a way that suggests they will end up in hell rather than heaven." Censoring the first one is okay, because the person is obviously just trying to make people angry. The second, while a hateful opinion to a large majority of people, still is a clearly expressed opinion and makes no attempt at name-calling, hence why even though it is disagreeable, it would be wrong to censor it.

The problem with that example is that it isn't just the use of profanity that differentiates those two quotes. For example we could change the first quote to: to "I hate those stupid homosexuals who think they can get married! All those lesbians too, they're gonna all be punished by God!" and it's still more offensive than the second quote, even though the derogatory words are taken out.

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#28 Old 03-04-2012, 05:55 PM
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Don't be ridiculous. I'm suggesting you put some thought into what you do, including how you respond to the ignorance of others. And, if you're going to put words in my mouth, at least try not to portray me as hysterical, vegkid.

Have you ever considered studying automotive repair? I could use a good mechanic.

I did not put words into your mouth, sorry that you think that. I'm just pointing out the fallacy of your argument. Simply passing it off as "shouldn't take offense to a word" because it's only a word makes as little sense as the scenario I described.

The second part of your response is passing over my head entirely. I guess I really am slow

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Originally Posted by cornsail View Post

The problem with that example is that it isn't just the use of profanity that differentiates those two quotes. For example we could change the first quote to: to "I hate those stupid homosexuals who think they can get married! All those lesbians too, they're gonna all be punished by God!" and it's still more offensive than the second quote, even though the derogatory words are taken out.

That's true. I suppose it would be a better analogy to compare the two quotes "I do not believe in the marital rights of homosexuals, and interpret the scripture in a way that suggests they will end up in hell rather than heaven" and "I do not believe in the marital rights of faggots, and interpret the scripture in a way that suggests they and the dykes will end up in hell rather than heaven".

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#29 Old 03-04-2012, 06:02 PM
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I group this word with other derogatory slang. I do not like these words and I try never to say them. But I wouldn't prevent someone else from saying them (even if I would think less of them for doing so).

However, the people who run these boards are the ones to decide what they do want and not want to be acceptable.
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#30 Old 03-04-2012, 06:13 PM
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Can we get "Santorum" added to the list? Heck, it isn't polite. (Referring to the politician, not the frothy mix. )
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