THE PETTY FILE: Socially Tabooed Words Still a BFD

OMG, I’m totes LMAO. (Photo: Obama for America)

Some might recall the incident a couple of months ago when Rick “Potty-Mouth” Santorum’s late presidential campaign was tainted by controversy over an off-color verbal ejaculation made to a New York Times reporter. When Jeff Zeleny asked the candidate to clarify his statement that Mitt Romney is the “worst Republican in the country” to run against Obama (in the exchange, Santorum added the qualifier “on the issue of Obamacare”), Little Ricky got in a tiff and proceeded to say that if he saw the remark referenced in a story, it would be “bullshit.”

I then found myself in the interesting and unenviable position of defending Rick Santorum. I wasn’t defending his actions, of course; the reporter was merely doing his job by asking the presidential candidate to clarify his statement regarding a rival candidate. My defense was of his choice in words, particularly since the real point of the incident (Santorum unfairly castigating a member of the press) was largely lost amid the furor over the word “bullshit.” If there was any bullshit going around, it was the public’s (and the media’s) hype over Santorum using the socially tabooed word and overlooking the real issue.

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PERSONAL FILE: A Message from the Other Side

When I was in elementary school, the playground had this really big blue metal slide. Of course, when you’re four feet tall, everything seems really big. It was one of those that had a wave in the middle so that a person going down it fast enough could get some serious air (like six inches) and, knowing myself, I’m sure the first time I went down it as a Kindergartner I was terrified out of my mind. People might be surprised to know that I’m a bit timid by nature and I was especially so when I was younger. The slide in question was fairly old by the time I was big enough to play on it and I remember it being slightly rickety; let’s just say it probably wouldn’t have passed a safety inspection by today’s standards.

During recess, playing on the slide meant getting in line and, once at the top, going down quickly lest the second-graders behind protest impatiently. I don’t remember that seminal moment (thank you, Ron Luce) when I took the initial plunge, but I’m sure it was nerve-wracking. Continue reading

My Long-Awaited, Much-Anticipated Senior Paper

As of 9:45 a.m. today, my senior paper is complete. Let’s just say that of all the things I’ve done in my time as an undergraduate student, writing my senior paper was the most enjoyable. Before this semester, I was fairly certain I didn’t want to pursue a Masters degree; but, after getting a taste of what graduate-level study would look like, that fire has been rekindled.

In a brief overview, my senior paper is titled A Sociolinguistic Understanding of Shared Identity. It’s a research paper looking into the connections between language and rhetoric and the formation, destruction, and motivation of collective identity. The results of the research show strong support for the idea that language and the way it is used over time has a powerful ability to shape the way people perceive the world and the other people in it. Continue reading