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John Davis <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 18 Apr 2007 14:30:38 -0400
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I was referring to language usage and acceptance, not to the personal effect
of that
language, and to general uses and changing attitudes toward usage,
regarding art, such as literature and drama.  If a character were the type
to say such
words and saying them served a purpose in the work, that character's saying
might be artistically justified in that work, whether or not socially,
personally, or
individually justified in some other place.  The words could be just as
offensive to
someone in 1910, 1955, 1970, or whenever as they are to people in 2007, just
can be words related to religion or scatology, but the degree and extent of
their use
have varied in different periods.  People can feel disrespect and contempt
in phrases
that they believe demean their religion, and therefore those that accept
that religion,
and in those, scatological or sexual,  that intend to demean any person,
race or group.  More than the literal or figurative meaning (either of which
can be
ludicrous when imagined), the intent of the words is significant.  What is
the intent of
racial usages in HF?

I also meant to note that, in news reporting, not so long ago, if a
character said
something pertinent to the situation being reported, a reporter might quote
what was
said but that today the presence of certain words could negate the use of a
or direct quotation; the reporter might more likely paraphrase, use
descriptive words,
or say something to the effect that the person used the N-word.  I did not
whether the practice is good, bad, positive, negative, an advancement or
As a matter of policy, certain words are no longer quoted.  Those same words
also often not used or are rarely used by people in media.

On the other hand, words (even some that may now seem innocuous) that once
were not heard on broadcast, as opposed to cable, tv now frequently occur,
comedies as well as other entertainments, words such as "butt," "pissed
"screw," "pee," and the G-D word.  I remember when the use of, simply,
"damn" was
rare except sometimes in some "adult" night-time dramatic programs (Kraft
Televison Theatre, The U.S. Steel Hour).  Surprised as a teenager when a
character said, "Hang!  Hang and be damned!," I was taken aback as an adult
first time I heard "screwed" on television, uttered by John Dean during the
Hearings.  Afterward, that word seemed to become acceptable usage on the
and its frequency has grown, most having forgotten or altered its origin.
Many people
are still offended by these usages, especially by electronic media, but I do
not and
did not intend to equate these words and phrases as holding the same value
sense (or sense of outrage) for everyone.  They are all examples of changing
and levels of acceptance as well as some altered perceptions.

Do you recall that Hemingway uses "mucked" over and over at the end of _To
and Have Not_, whereas he almost certainly had another word in mind?
us to the topic of this Forum, I think I recall that Mark Twain substituted
"Sheol" in
_Connecticut Yankee_ after objections were raised about the more commonly
word for a place in the after-life.

John H. Davis, Ph.D.
Chowan College
Murfreesboro, NC