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  • Thursday, September 22, 2005


    Insulted by Search Terms and Searching for Insults

    There is a certain "Is the glass half empty or half full?" aspect to examining the search terms that led people to my blog. On one hand, my strangely high ranking on Google and Yahoo searches is gratifying. On the other, some of the actual search words and phrases depress me.

    Two searches which are on my mind recently are "bigger penis" and "women slaves" or slight variations. Now perhaps I am too close to properly evaluate the content of my blog but I don't think these searches are indicative of most of my writing here. I know I can't control what people search on or their clickthroughs to get here yet I have a low-level sense of horror about these results.

    My mind has trouble visualizing the person searching for women slaves as, say, a feminist researching the subject. Instead, I immediately think of a guy looking for nasty fantasy fodder. I'm much more satisfied when a search on "patriarchy" ends up here as happens occasionally. This says something about my value system but more importantly it says something about the weight and ancillary meanings we all assign to words. These peripheral yet strong associations also act as clues to social/cultural groupspeak and identity.

    By groupspeak, I mean the jargon and cant of particular subcultures, the words and phrases that mark inclusion in the group. These words act as signposts and displays of affinity with the group. "Patriarchy" is a word that will generally be used in feminist discussion although there is specialized religious usage as well. And, no, I'm not discounting the actual literal communication value of the word but it's not my focus at the moment.

    The use of particular words and insults to differentiate one's membership in or aversion to identity groups is very commonplace. One thing that disturbs me is the use of perceived insult words to dismiss or attempt to ridicule a person or group. I'm drawn to try and understand the insult. It usually seems to say much more about person saying the insult than the target. I even get the impression that if you asked the insulter to define what they just said they would be bewildered, not because of difficulty of definition but because the insult is more symbolic and based in identity jargon than literal.

    A comment in another blog used the phrase "you leftist liberal wackos" as an obvious insult. Notice how the primary insult is "wackos" and the rest of the phrase is a descriptive line drawn to fence in a particular group target. In the groups included (leftists and liberals), these are not insulting words, but the writer has obviously identified these words as derogatory in her/his peer group and thus good insults. After all, the writer would be insulted if called these words.

    I get annoyed at the common use of insult in political discussion. It neither creates nor furthers serious discussion. Calling the opposition fuckheads or fucktards may be personally satisfying and but it is a tad counterproductive.*

    My regular readers may have noted that I'm not so big on using taboo words here. I'm not offended by them; a shouted "Fuck!" is an excellent tension release. Overreliance on them, however, shows a certain lack of imagination and articulation. The regular use of "fucking" as an intensifier (e.g., fucking idiot) too often renders the word into a null and non-communicative sound signifying nothing. Eventually it just becomes a verbal tic like saying "um" or "you know" constantly in conversation.

    This post has gone far afield and I'm not sure how to end it. Ah, here's a question if you've made it this far: What words would you use to describe this blog?

    *Not that I'm above calling members of the current administration fucktards as well, because... well, because they are. And sometimes the frustration at their arrogance and stonewalling leads to the overwhelming urge to call the shitheads "shitheads."

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