Sunday, March 04, 2007

Coulter tells us what she can't say

I'll go ahead and say that only linguists should talk about offensive words. It's not because I'm looking to take away anyone else's right. It's because I think only linguists know how to do it. Semiotic ignorance leads many people to overlook the difference between talking about a word and actually using the word.

Isaiah Washington's post Golden Globe rant was on the fringe. Ann Coulter thinks she's only flirting with that same offensive word, but she's way past flirting. She has long been nurturing a love affair with hateful speech and she has consummated the affair in public several times.

Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference the demure Coulter decided to show impressive restraint by not referring to Presidential hopeful John Edwards as a "faggot." Here's the example of her impotent jest.

I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, but it turns out that you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot,' so I'm...kind of at an impasse. Can't really talk about Edwards, so I think I'll just conclude here and take your questions. Thank you.
You see what she did there? She says she's at an "impasse" in her desire to use the word "faggot" and explains that she cannot therefore talk about Edwards, which at first sounds a lot like she really is refusing to say he is a "faggot." She could possibly hide behind a flimsy shield of conversational implicature and insist that she never said Edwards is a faggot, but let's follow the structure of her joke.

She's not allowed to say "faggot."
She has said it.
She tells us to whom she would like to apply it.

Not very clever.

Here's how she smuggly tried to dismiss the offense. Responding to criticism she said
C'mon, it was a joke. I would never insult gays by suggesting that they are like John Edwards. That would be mean.
(The New York Times reports this response came via email.)

See what she did there? Through the shrill peals of her turgid laughter we have her admission that she is very comfortable calling homosexuals faggots. "It was a joke," she says. Not the use of the word, but the comparison to Edwards.

Perhaps the best course of action with offensive language is to let it flow freely in all media and in all situations. We will surely find that the people who choose to speak a certain way will, through their intellectual inanity, do the best job of illustrating just how moronic it sounds.

[The original picture I posted of Coulter was too heavy handed. When an article or newscast finds it necessary to illustrate its commentary with a "crazy" picture it comes across as at least one of two things: A)a lack of confidence in the writing to adequately convey the poor judgement of the individual -- 2)just plain ad hominem malevolence. Too understand what Buffy's comment below refers to, click here to see the original picture.]


  1. That was an excitingly fine analysis.

    And after that picture of her, do you really want to continue telling me to open my eyes wide for pictures?

  2. Holy smokes. Talk about cojones--I wonder if she has a collection of formaldehyde jars in her office: Goebbels, Himmler, Mussolini.

  3. After my 3rd reading:I've read Coulter too; and if my memory isn't
    faulty,she's been on MinnesotaPublic
    Radio for a talkshow-interview...Calls from listeners also.I don't like her and
    her style is terrible,some of the girls in my graduating class,at Highschool,backalready in 1965 talked
    like that,to a lesser purpose however.Or this would be my conjecture...I say good going,you and I are on,roughly speaking,the
    same political side.You're the Linguist and I'm a writer,I certainly don't know the language
    of English as you do.In a vague way
    I write in a dialect or could,but
    that dialect,spoken once in Norwegian-American settlements,has
    vanished.By the way,the movie Fargo
    made an attempt to stress this localese...But you know those famous Cohen brothers were from a
    TwinCities suburb and I dare say
    cannot have known this experience of our american/english speech in
    the same way,for my parents were
    bilingual but never passed the 8th
    grade.(yet by then the fundamentals
    reading and writing must have been
    instilled).Just one more thing:I hope the percentage of our population in support of Coulter's position and her vacuous rhetoric doesn't go any higher,although un-
    happily there seems to be a strata
    in general found
    allover the USA that might find her view and standpoint exceptable.Sorry for being so windy. Ohyes I'm with the
    Democrats,but I was schooled in the
    so-called farmer-labor party,the which is or was, a branch and innovative
    development in the federalistic way.Thus I support Hillary so far.

  4. Is this what "linguistics" is? And is it too late for me to... oh, nevermind. :)


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