A modicum of civility. Vocabulary Problems in Vituperation.

Carrol Cox cbcox at rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu
Wed Apr 3 18:25:48 MST 1996


Doug,
    I've been thinking a bit about this "problem" ever since the flame wars
with the Shinging Pathology began, and the objectins I'm about to express
apply to some of my own posts of the past.

    I'm beginning to be bothered by the use of terms from mental pathology
in our vituperative vocabulary. Imyself suffer from depression (or Uni-polar
affective disorder." Some very fine people whom I've met in the local
Depressive & Manic Depressive support group suffer from Manic Depression
(Bi-polar affective disorder). I have also in the past year or two through
work on the annual Mental Illness Awareness Week met a number of people
who suffer from schizophrenia, some of whom are pleasant even when suf-
fering hallucinations or in a state of gross incoherence, and who, when
their medication is working, are very rational (!) people--considerably
more so than Adolpho and Co.

    There is developing a real pinch in the area of vituperation: after
eliminating racist, sexist, and homophobic terms (and also, as I'm now
suggesting) terms from the area of mental illness, our available vocabulary
is getting thinned out. The problem lies in the area of what communists
call each other when they get pissed off. "Fascist" won't do, period. It
marks a complete break...

    When communists are on the verge of a real break, but perhaps still
prepared to draw back, some of our terms for enemies and traitors might
be used: yellow dog, scab, provacateur. One can use those and then retreat
and apologize. I dunno. But human ingenuity ought to be great enough to
devise an acceptable vocabulary of abuse with several levels of seriousness.
    Carrol





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