Re: Idiotic Censorship of Dire Straits
posted at 3/19/2013 4:55 PM EDT
The notion that words are meaningless is silly, and demonstrably false: we manage to communicate things by using them.
It is true that there is no objective meaning to words - no meaning just floating about the universe, waiting to be had by a combination of vibrations in the air produced by the human vocal chords and mouth. But that's one of those points that leads nowhere, much like the argument that reality could really all just be in your head. Sure, it's possible. But also useless because won't get you anywhere.
I think Quine had the right view: the meaning of a word is the set of its referents. In layman's term: the meaning is how the word is used by people. The more universal the use, the more distinct the definition.
However, I'm not sure that was Carlin's point. I think the point is more that it seems absurd and arbitrary to pick particular words to be offended at.
There, I have referred to the same objectionable object using three different words. Is it not absurd on its face to pick one or two of them to be offended by? A much longer list could be made of words referring to the female genitalia. At the end of the day, the only reason people get offended is because they have been conditioned...trained...to do so.
Indeed, there was a pointed article on Slate about how "c**t" used to be used without any objection as a standard medical term, even, for the female genitalia. Nowadays, it is treated as 'worse' than f**k.
Of course, to tie back in to the first point, that's because people use it not simply to refer to an object, but to a feeling.