Friday, June 10, 2011

Creative Language

So, they are going to fine people for swearing in parts of Australia and in Barnsley town centre.

My anger and disbelief at this idea is extremely difficult to contain. It makes absolutely no sense for myriad of reasons, but I just have to point out the most obvious.

Language evolves and progresses over years and decades and centuries. What is considered foul language now was not considered foul language 100 years ago. You know, the kids these days are very creative. Did you know what a MILF was a decade ago? Believe it or not, Shakespeare did not pen the line “My companion, on yonder stool is thine finest mater, for she is a MILF and will make my heart take flight”. MILF is an acronym of the highest order, to be commended for its almost onomatopoeic quality. It also contains what is widely regarded as the second worst swear we have. Should it be banned? The offending word itself is not said,but surely it is strongly suggested.

My wife is American and, as such, because of her societal origin, did not believe the words “bastard” or “bollocks” or indeed “fart” to be inappropriate for use in the presence of my parents. My parents are traditional English folk and somewhat disagree.

“Shit” finds its origins in the Old English word scite, meaning dung. If we simply replace the the modern common usage by saying scite, do we still find ourselves £80 worse off? Scite cannot possibly be on the watch list for offensive words, so either a loophole has been found (start studying kids, we have a lot of derivatives research to do), or the town centre wardens will have to be judge and jury on the entirety of history of the English language.

Which brings us to another salient point. What about non-English swear words? My saying merde under my breath when yet again that I am going to hell for being a sinner purely because I am walking past a man with a placard on my way to GAP cannot possibly incur the penalty, can it?

Context is extremely important. List the following in order of offence:

1.I fingered a bird outside the club last night. She couldn't stop screaming.
2.Shit, that was a great goal. He is unbelievable.
3.I would love to stick my massive wang into her swollen vagina.

I know which of those I would consider least offensive for my family to hear on an afternoon out shopping.

And last, but most certainly not least, who has the right to tell us what we can say? It would take another ten pages to explain the list of things I don't want to hear that I find personally offensive, but I never, ever, ever tell people they cannot say them. I would never dream of it. If necessary, engage in a conversation and, yes, even an argument about whether it is appropriate. But it is not the place of government to police words leaving the mouths of autonomous individuals. I would have to publicly flog myself if I used the 'slippery slope' argument because it is bullmerde (pardon my French), but where the restrictions on word usage will end is certainly a consideration.

People of Australia and Barnsley, I stand by you. Mass swear protest outside town hall? Absolutely. I for one cannot wait to see the placards. Contrary to popular belief, people who swear well are some of the most imaginative people I know.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Not My Opinion

When did this happen? Without warning, I am now the go-to guy for every contentious discussion of which anyone in the office wishes to be a part. Recently, I have started to be hit with one line points of argument which make very little sense when flippantly thrown at me out of context and which make even less sense when given context by the aggressor.

Do you think you're born gay or do you turn gay? What do you make of the 2012 end of the world? Both of these minor issues were thrown at me within the space of three hours last week from co-workers. Now, there are quick answers (“It's not for me to decide” and “It's bullshit”, taken in order), but that wouldn't do the combative nature of the questions any justice. I was asked in earnest to shed light on the subjects at hand. Although, with my reputation for being opinionated, loud and, well, a prick, I think they asked me for entertainment purposes more than anything else, like asking the drunken conspiracy-theory-guy in the pub what really happened to Princess Diana and then standing back to watch the show.

The questions in the office came fully loaded, in that an opinion had already been formed by the questioner. “I just don't see how there is a gene that can make you gay”. “What about that other planet that will throw everything in the universe off?”.

Now, I love debate, and arguing, like a fat kid loves cake. But my side of these discussions was remarkably easy. Too easy in fact. Question: What does the research tell us?

There. Simple.

Now, let's be clear about the difference between listening to an expert and listening to the research. You can find an 'expert' to tell you anything. Hell, you can find an 'expert' who will tell you that it is a biological fact the the brains of black people are smaller than the brains of white people, or that we don't know how magnets work (thank you, Insane Clown Posse). However, listening to the research is something that the interested and impartial scientific community gives as its gift to the world.

Am I smart enough to know through my own endeavour whether being straight or gay is biological, environmental or, like bisexuality, a bit of both? No, of course not. I have neither the time nor the expertise to fully research such a complex subject, containing biological, psychological and sociological aspects. I do know, however, that there are two extreme theories on each end of the spectrum, with a multitude of other theories in between. What I do think is that the scientific community has researched the subject, with hypotheses hypothesised, experiments performed, data collected, conclusions drawn, papers presented and then torn to shreds by a team of peers who would like nothing more than for the person presenting the paper to be made to look as ignorant as a Scientologist, rather than a scientist. The researcher then has to defend their conclusions. Amazing, right?

You throw the majesty of Google into that mix and you remove the need for my opinion on whether the guy in the bar who is really loving the Queen track that just came on the jukebox loves 'We Are The Champions' because it represents a part of him which is as unchangeable as the colour of his eyes, or because his dad didn't pay enough attention to him as a teenager.

Of course, the Mayan calender, end of the world scenario takes significantly less time to discuss. Another planet that the Government is keeping secret? The first time in thousands of years that the entire galaxy will be in the southern region of the Milky Way? Come and ask me again on 22nd December 2012. I'm sure we'll both be around.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Won't you be my neighbour?

So, paranoid at number 4 tried a new tact, this time complaining that our chickens have trespassed on her property. I looked up over my laptop and through my office window to see a member of Sheffield City Council peering over our fence to examine the chicken's humble abode.

Holy shit.

I hung up the phone to whatever insurance company was busting my arse that day to pop outside and offer a kind word, asking if there was anything I could help him with. Did he want to come over and take a closer look? As it turns out, he was quite a nice fellow and we had quite an amicable chat. There was nothing wrong with owning chickens and ours look perfectly content, he said. The only thing is, would we mind trying to make their area a little more secure by putting some pea-netting over the entrance, just to make double sure? Of course, says I. Anything we can do, we'll take care of.

All the while, number 4 is seething from underneath her black hood, listening to the polite back-and-forth between perfectly friendly adults and hoping that the fine councilman would suddenly stumble across some underage prostitute ring I have been running from our garden shed.

Sorry to disappoint, but they're just chickens. And it's just a front door closing, and the next time you complain it will be something equally minor.

I think the council may now have heard the cry of wolf on too many occasions and next time they'll just let the fucker eat all her sheep.

Monday, October 11, 2010

With all due respect...

And so the battle between having the greatest, and devoutly Christian, parents in the world and my very strong atheistic beliefs begins. This morning, my daughter told me that the bad people in heaven would like the fact that I have a bad cough.

My initial reaction to this was to find it a genuinely funny thing to say, immediately creating images in my mind of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Disney World, with hordes of bad guys drinking flagons of ale and singing songs about my cough and chasing a buxom young wench, all while the village burns.

But then came the realization that this was a seminal moment in Emma's upbringing. Do I completely dismiss the notion of heaven and begin Emma's education in her Father's belief system? Or do I maintain the magical illusion that the people she knows and relies upon for guidance are unified when it comes to such important matters? Her Grandparents are amazing, generous, gracious people, but Daddy doesn't agree with them.

I made the most important point first. Anyone who would laugh at Daddy's cough is not in heaven, they are in hell. Interestingly, my parents had not garnished my 4 year old with any information on hell whatsoever. She's never heard of it. So she has been given details of the good bits with angels and everyone you love being together, but they leave me holding the can on the pitchforks, fire and eternal damnation. Excellent. Thanks.

I then went on to say that Daddy doesn't believe that either heaven or hell exist and so is not particularly worried about being mocked for having a tickley cough by bullies from the afterworld. People believe in many different things and this is where Daddy stands on the matter. It is up to you to make your own mind up.

"My friend was sad once because he thought his Grandma had died and is now on the roof. He doesn't understand heaven either".

Friday, August 27, 2010

God's Harmful Rays.

Whilst running errands in Sheffield City Centre I was approached by a pleasant enough looking young man who handed me some reading material. I always take leaflets or pamphlets when they are proferred, for two reasons. Firstly, I think turning them down is confrontational and I like an easy life. Secondly, you never know what you might find out and there is no such thing as too much information (unless your best friend is trying to tell you the best way to clean obscure parts of the human body with a moist towelette after running, that is).

What I was handed was a 16 page lesson in how to (or more specifically, how not to) use graphics to illustrate your point, disguised as a guide on how not to go to hell. Now, my writing partner, Chella Quint here, and I know a little something about this, having recently produced a spoof research paper on forming the perfect pub quiz team (search 'The Venns' on Facebook), which includes many illustrations and graphs showing the internal workings of quizzes. Its a tough skill and illustrations (be they pictoral or graphical) should be treated with the utmost respect.

I will say this. This is a hard hitting pamphlet, as far as pamphlets go (man, I love the word 'pamphlet'). On page 5, 'Gospel Tracts International' come right at you with the illustration shown here:

"Your sins have separated you from God." Nice try, but that isn't what this image illustrates. THIS is what this image illustrates:

Surely this graphic is making the point that, when organising a trip to the beach, you should take a big hat, sunscreen and sin. It's the only way to be truly safe this summer.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The None Event

Okay. Just watched the Derren Brown's Big Event. Just a couple of thoughts. Firstly. Why was the guy selected sweating like he was being filmed all night by a national audience while behaving like it was a surprise? Second, would your bank allow you to withdraw 5 grand without warning?

Too bad. He lost. I'm sure the guy got to keep his 5 grand, but that is a None Event.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Get this child some lavender, NOW!

While meandering through the lovely district of Holborn, London, I came across the following sign:

Word to the wise. In case of emergency, I beg you to not confuse the two. If your child is suffering from leukemia and you are running late for the latest round of chemotherapy, please, please, please pay full attention. Emergency aromatherapy may make little Johnny more pleasant to sit next to in the car journey home, but it won't help in letting him live long enough to drive you home someday.