The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'taboo'
Cultural phenomenon of the day: vegansexuality, or shunning sex with meat eaters because "their bodies are made up of animal carcasses":
"When you are vegan or vegetarian, you are very aware that when people eat a meaty diet, they are kind of a graveyard for animals," vegan Nichola Kriek told the Christchurch daily The Press.
Another said: "I would not want to be intimate with someone whose body is literally made up from the bodies of others who have died for their sustenance."
Cross-cultural artefact of the day: ABC guidelines on how to refer to deceased Aboriginal people (PDF), referring to the common Aboriginal tradition prohibiting the use of the personal names of the recently deceased:
People who share the personal name of the deceased person--including English names--will very often temporarily or permanently adopt another personal name.
In central Australia, the construction "Kumanjayi"--and variants--are used to replace the personal name of the deceased, and is very commonly taken on by people who share the same or similar sounding personal name&emdash... Again as an example, the main town of central Australia was referred to by members of some communities as "Kumanjayi Springs", after the death of a woman called Alice. In the latter case, it could hardly be expected a media organisation should follow this practice!
I once read that one reason why the vocabularies Australian Aboriginal languages changed relatively rapidly was that often the names for various things would be changed if they sounded much like the names of recently deceased people.
(via ABC MediaWatch)
An interesting essay on the subject of taboos and intellectual fashions, by Paul Graham:
The word "defeatist", for example, has no particular political connotations now. But in Germany in 1917 it was a weapon, used by Ludendorff in a purge of those who favored a negotiated peace. At the start of World War II it was used extensively by Churchill and his supporters to silence their opponents. In 1940, any argument against Churchill's aggressive policy was "defeatist". Was it right or wrong? Ideally, no one got far enough to ask that.
Moral fashions don't seem to be created the way ordinary fashions are. Ordinary fashions seem to arise by accident when everyone imitates the whim of some influential person. The fashion for broad-toed shoes in late fifteenth century Europe began because Charles VIII of France had six toes on one foot. The fashion for the name Gary began when the actor Frank Cooper adopted the name of a tough mill town in Indiana. Moral fashions more often seem to be created deliberately. When there's something we can't say, it's often because some group doesn't want us to.
Suppose in the future there is a movement to ban the color yellow. Proposals to paint anything yellow are denounced as "yellowist", as is anyone suspected of liking the color. People who like orange are tolerated but viewed with suspicion. Suppose you realize there is nothing wrong with yellow. If you go around saying this, you'll be denounced as a yellowist too, and you'll find yourself having a lot of arguments with anti-yellowists. If your aim in life is to rehabilitate the color yellow, that may be what you want. But if you're mostly interested in other questions, being labelled as a yellowist will just be a distraction. Argue with idiots, and you become an idiot.
(Via Slashdot, where it has devolved into the usual melange of Hitler references, Libertarian/Objectivist railings against the collectivist tyranny of taxation, flames directed respectively at Bush/neoconservatives and effete Europeans/elitist liberals, assertions that global warming is a lie perpetuated by a powerful environmentalist conspiracy, unsubstantiated claims about Israeli involvement in 9/11 and rants about why feminism and the homosexual agenda have ruined America; and not a word about Bill Gates being a Sith lord either. Looks like Slashdot has turned into talkback radio.)
An interesting and scholarly Grauniad article on the rise and fall of the word "fuck", formerly a sexual obscenity.
The decline is a matter of shifting taboos, says Jean Aitchison, the Oxford professor of language and communication... "In the last century, it was religious swearing that upset people," she says. "Then, in the mid-20th century, sexual swearing. But these days people get far more upset about politically incorrect language: nigger, and even mad, are quite taboo. "
The class issue remains an awkward one for fuck's supporters. The classier the accent, the more endearing (and figurative, rather than aggressive) it somehow sounds. Hugh Grant carried it off with aplomb (and a plum) in Four Weddings and a Funeral, and when a BBC Radio 3 announcer recently let slip a fuck on air, it caused little stir; the same station's drama output is a secret treasury of fucks. Yet when football manager Graham Taylor used it 32 times in a Cutting Edge documentary, it went down rather badly - especially with the popular newspapers, which remain squeamish about any word that might unsettle readers; the Sun even avoids "orgasm". Most non-broadsheets, when it is unavoidable, opt for f**k, which lets them, as Jones puts it, be "daring and prissy simultaneously".