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Thread: Terms of Reference

  1. #1
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    Terms of Reference

    In a recent thread a poster was taken to task for using the term "silly cow" to describe Diana Spencer, not on the basis that cows rear their young and aren't attention seeking egomaniacs, but on the basis that this is intrinsically offensive. I don't think this term carries the same offence here but take the posters' point.

    I also recently read this article about the term "wog" which is unacceptable in the UK but apparently ok in Oz. Perhaps a Digger could confirm this; I assume "Digger" is still cheerfully accepted by those in Australia.

    While we all know certain terms are universally unacceptable, the one that rhymes with "trigger" for example; are there others that are widely used in some areas that are deeply offensive in others?

    Outwith Scotland I occasionally get into trouble for using the term "girl" to describe a woman. This is simply a Scottish thing and I would also describe an adult man as a "boy", until he is about 60 when he becomes an "old boy".

    Conversely I have never heard of anyone taking offence at the Scots term "Red Sea Pedestrian" to describe a jew.

    This is not a plea to allow (or use) borderline terms, I'm just curious if many such terms exist.

  2. #2
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    I've wondered about all that as well. You and I would cheerfully throw around phrases that may be offensive in other parts of the world, and I am often extremely surprised/amused to see people throwing around phrases that obviously have different meanings for them.

    For example, on another board I was amused to read somebody from the US describing somebody's hair as poofy, meaning all puffed up.

  3. #3
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    And, of course, there's the classic example of "rubber." Y'all on the other side of the Atlantic, I understand from reading British books, mean something a little different than we Americans do. Also, a certain English slang term for cigarettes is horribly offensive over here. (Though it does produces a funny scene in Gaiman and Pratchett's Good Omens.)
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  4. #4
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    Also, a certain English slang term for cigarettes is horribly offensive over here.
    Yup, and you can say you smoke 20 a day for pleasure here but given smoke can in some areas mean shoot, saying that would raise a few eyebrows!

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    Kind of along these lines, there was an interesting piece this past Sunday on CBS News Sunday Morning about curse words and how they change over time. For example, certain words that today are considered the polite versions of curse words, like "shoot" were at one time considered very bad.
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  6. #6
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    There are also degrees of derogatory. The infamous 'C' word here is thrown around in friendly manner in parts of the UK. Still an insult but not what it is here. Also concerning the OP, in Latin America in general, comparisons to animals is taken much more seriously than in the US or Canada. Dirty Dog

    Then for example "Austin Powers the Spy who Shagged Me" I thought I'd heard that the title was changed in the UK because Shagged there really has about the same weight as the "F" word here?

  7. #7
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    Even the one that rhymes with trigger is not offensive to everyone. It depends on who you are talking about, who you are conversing with, your relationship with them, etc. To wit, a certain scene from the movie Pulp Fiction (love that flick - it was the 1st movie I ever bought to own). The term is of course totally politically incorrect, but then PC is a farce adhered to for superficial reasons - something about looking good.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by farmerjumperdon
    Even the one that rhymes with trigger is not offensive to everyone. It depends on who you are talking about, who you are conversing with, your relationship with them, etc. To wit, a certain scene from the movie Pulp Fiction (love that flick - it was the 1st movie I ever bought to own). The term is of course totally politically incorrect, but then PC is a farce adhered to for superficial reasons - something about looking good.
    I think that relates to the unwritten rule that you are allowed to tell jokes or use bad-terms for your own group. Examples: as partially Polish, I can tell polish jokes; females can call each other "girl", but adult males in the US should not.
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  9. #9
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    I'm not sure that anyone in the Uk would address even a friend as a "c", except possibly prefaced by "you silly old..." to lessen the blow. But b*gg*r is used much more frequently in the North, between men, as a greeting, "Ow are you, you old booger?" But note the 'old' as a diminisher.

    More bizzare is the use of 'My lover' in the West Country (Devon & Cornwall). When I first worked there, it was disconcerting to be addressed thus, by men who one had hardly met!

    John

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnD
    I'm not sure that anyone in the Uk would address even a friend as a "c", except possibly prefaced by "you silly old..." to lessen the blow.
    Right but in the States, prefacing the "C" word with anything won't lessen the blow. For some reason it's just off limits.

    Thinking about it, the folks I've known who've thrown it around lightly, are all Irish.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by jumbo
    Yup, and you can say you smoke 20 a day for pleasure here but given smoke can in some areas mean shoot, saying that would raise a few eyebrows!
    Yip got some funny looks in Washington dc at DuPont circle when I asked a colored gent where I could buy fags not realizing its slang over there for homosexual and cigarettes here luckily he was not gay and we had a good laugh after explanation

  12. #12
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    there are lots of regional as well as national slangs - and most of them are not terribly offensive to anybody.

    but the original post was looking for offensive descriptors - I am choosing to assume excluding epithets like "You Flaming A...."

    To me, Silly Cow isn't offensive - probably because I just can't see me using it.

    On the other hand, there are places where 'spade' doesn't refer to a shovel or suit of cards, where 'wop' doesn't mean 'hit in the head' and where ..

    well, I could go on (see what comes of living in a multinational family?)

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  13. #13
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    Interesting topic. Who would have thought that calling someone "your mother's seashell" in Spanish is a good way to get the snot beat out of you? (or worse yet, as I heard one guy say, "your sister's seashell")

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by LurchGS
    On the other hand, there are places where 'spade' doesn't refer to a shovel or suit of cards, where 'wop' doesn't mean 'hit in the head' and where ..
    We had to change our verbiage at work. We no longer use the term WOP (with out pay). This happened after the company got on the "fad" wagon with being politically correct. I'm starting to see PC slowly lose its power. Yeah!

    I call girls the "C" word all the time. Well, not to their face. I do say it out loud around my male friends. I just think it is one of the funniest words I've ever heard. If you treat me rudely and are female, I will call you the "C" word.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Candy
    Well, not to their face. I do say it out loud around my male friends.
    That was my point. It sounds like your a bit scared to say it not just to the face of female friends but in their company. I've known a few females who feel like you do and in their own little circle with each other, but not out side.

    The three different folks I new, all Irish, two guys one gal, none knew each other were all perplexed completely when so much offence was taken, by what they thought was along the lines of "silly twit"

  16. #16
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    Spherical "$#*&@%$^!!*"

    Fritz Zwicky, one of my heros.....was noted as irascible, in the literature. No offense intended to his daughter. When he disliked somebody intensely, he would refer to them as "spherical bas#@$%s"..no matter how you looked at them, they were bas#@$%s. lol. I kind of like the expression, and much prefer people who are very direct. As a farm boy, I know manure when I see it, on the grass, or on the monitor. Ciao. Pete

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heid the Ba'
    snip

    I also recently read this article about the term "wog" which is unacceptable in the UK but apparently ok in Oz. Perhaps a Digger could confirm this; I assume "Digger" is still cheerfully accepted by those in Australia.
    While the term isn't used in as vicious a way as it was in the past, it's still regarded as impolite to refer to another person as a "wog" if you don't know them. But like a lot of derogatory terms, many Australians of Greek and Italian decent will refer to themselves as "wogs" in much the same self-referential way that some African Americans use the "n" word.

    During the late 1980s and early 1990s there was a string of successful stage productions (the first being "Wogs Out Of Work") in which Greek and Italian comedians used self-depreciating humour in a way that celebrated the idiosyncrasies of the life of the "typical" "new Australian". The shows were a massive hit within the Greek and Italian communities, led to a successful television comedy (Acropolis Now) and ultimately to a feature film ("The Wog Boy").

    All of these things have diluted the severity of the term "wog" in Australia, but as with any insult-turned-accepted-naming-word, it all depends on who is saying it and why.


    The term Digger is still much revered

  18. #18
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    Then for example "Austin Powers the Spy who Shagged Me" I thought I'd heard that the title was changed in the UK because Shagged there really has about the same weight as the "F" word here?
    It was release with the title intact. IIRC posters had the full title as well. The only time i heard it altered was when advertised on tv early in the day. Shagged does mean a similar thing to the word you are thnking of but it seems to be a bit more acceptable.

  19. #19
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    They changed the title in Singapore.
    The country were you can get arrested for spitting in public.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Halcyon Dayz
    They changed the title in Singapore.
    The country were you can get arrested for spitting in public.
    Spitting in public is still illegal in many Counties/States in the USA. See Crazy Laws.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnD
    I'm not sure that anyone in the Uk would address even a friend as a "c",
    I'm from Edinburgh, and amongst the more "working class" elements of the town, it's regarded as a sign of affection. i.e. "How ya doin ya c..." The film Trainspotting is a fairly good guide to this as I remember...

    Shag (shagging, shagged) is a moderately impolite, i.e. wouldn't be used in a formal situation, but is within the realms of use in front of your grannie. Nowhere near as potentially offensive as some other terms...

    Cheers
    John

    <edited for "shag">
    Last edited by enginelessjohn; 2005-Nov-16 at 04:28 PM.

  22. #22
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    Thank you, Engineless,
    How unlike the home life of our own dear Queen!

    Just remembered - there was a trio of female actors, who had a very funny show - songs and sketches - at the Edinburgh Fringe, that transferred to London. They, and their show were entitled, "Cunning Stunts"
    THAT, was up in lights on the marquee of their London theatre.

    John

  23. #23
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    There's a program up here called the "Senior Housing Assistance Group," or some such, and, yes, they use the acronym. Much snickering from those of us up on English slang. (I started laughing long before the second Austin Powers movie. And stopped while watching it. But anyway.)

    As to cow . . . I would think it would depend on context. I, personally, don't use it. I think its use in the other thread was intended to be derogatory. At least, that was how it felt in context. Remember, even though a lot of terms can be used affectionately by members of that group, or even others (see Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, as an example), it can also be used as an insult. Context, as my second-grade teacher taught me, is important.
    _____________________________________________
    Gillian

    "Now everyone was giving her that kind of look UFOlogists get when they suddenly say, 'Hey, if you shade your eyes you can see it is just a flock of geese after all.'"

    "You can't erase icing."

    "I can't believe it doesn't work! I found it on the internet, man!"

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by jumbo
    Yup, and you can say you smoke 20 a day for pleasure here but given smoke can in some areas mean shoot, saying that would raise a few eyebrows!
    "smoking 20 <british word for cigarrette>s a day" can also mean something a little more "deviant" than the original <british word for cigarrette> means by itself.

    taks

    PS: deviant was put in quotes simply because i don't find these things truly "deviant" other than they deviate from the norm.

  25. #25
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    'Round here (Glasgow), casual swearing seems the norm. Pretty much anything goes. I mean, speaking to your dear old granny, you'd be more polite, but public use of the 'f' word is de rigeur.

    As for 'Red Sea Pedestrian', is that a scottish phrase? I first heard it in Monty Python's Life of Brian (quoted at the bottom of this page). I always quite liked the phrase. I'm not jewish, so I can't comment on its offensiveness or otherwise.

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