Reminiscing about how we communicate with one another and how it’s extremely easy to misunderstand the context of words. Especially if it’s a familiar private joke shared but overheard or I’m giving myself a hard time yet again using ‘society’, aka no-one in particular, as the subject of a moody rant.
Suggested audio: I’m Alive by Stretch & Vern
I was born and raised in central Scotland, United Kingdom, where the weather is moody, the scenery is stunning and everyone calls each other a cunt. Friend or foe, you’re a cunt. Teasing remarks were and still are part of life and colourfully expressed by the range of regional dialects within the country. Words that the powers that be that are deemed offensive are thrown around with a glint in the eye. No malice is actually meant but of course, you’d know about it if it was.
Case in point: me. My nickname is Shaz. Of Arabic origin meaning ‘alone’ or ‘leader’. My close friends and family call me Shazza which in Australia means you’re ‘white trash’. But I’m not Australian. Really close people affectionately call me Shaz the Spaz. Old slang for mentally retarded or spasticity. Spaz is widely used in the playground to insinuate someone is an idiot. We used it as children and no one corrected us. Retard is a terminology demonised over the years. My epilepsy medication carbamazepine reads ‘Carbamazepine Retard’ on the box. It is of the slow-release type, of French origin meaning ‘delay’.
Word usage is globally subjective and should some deem, for example, ‘midget’ something that should never be used then… but what about one of my favourite childhood sweets? The still widely available daringly called Midget Gems. No-one really minds.
Photograph by Sharon Lawson
I worked as a postwoman (not ‘postperson’) for Royal Mail when I left school. The constant banter between all of us consisted of obscenities, innuendo, sexual connotations, you name it and we loved it. It kept us laughing as we carried out repetitive gruelling physical labour. If anyone told us to shut up, they got a resounding ‘mind your own business!’ but with smiles on our faces.
Time passed and I got a position in a pathology lab as a lab assistant and mortician. If there were no autopsies that day, I assisted the staff up in the histopathology department. An environment of gleaming stainless steel, intimidating medical instruments, razor sharp blades threatening all who look at them, countless specimens in formaldehyde and the gentle hum of body coolers. And you guessed it, banter. Categorically not aimed at the deceased but each other. Lab staff, mortuary staff and the flow of many undertakers whom we got to know as friends. We all ribbed each other to raise our spirits in such a morbid workplace. Positively criminal things were thrown at one another from our smiling faces and we loved it.
When I was admin on a leading uncensored media site I monitored members’ behaviour and edited content of the most horrific kind you could ever witness. Relentless comments were fired between them like a gattling gun. The only people who took offence and reported them were those who dangerously took offence on other people’s behalfs. This became a constant nuisance for the admin. I dealt with endless reported posts from users stating he/she said this and that but rarely did we get ones from the actual people involved. More often than not, no action was taken as nothing in the extensive rules was breached and the do-gooders were warned about wasting valuable time. There was a strong encouragement of freedom of speech (unless content was absolutely illegal according to the law). If people hit report because they were personally affected, we suggested they simply ignore, sort it out privately or in cases beyond reconciliation, hit block. If they openly annihilated each other, their posts were removed and they received one of a three-and-out warning. A website like that was bursting at the seams with brutal comments but it was all dependent on multiple social factors if offence was taken or not.
Humour is subjective. Not everyone gets offended. Banter is extremely variable and, well, I guess people are wonderfully strange. Don’t stick your oar in unless what you hear is 100% about you. Leave others to take offence if they choose to do so. People love to slaughter each other in jest and it certainly can sound terribly abusive to an outsider listening in.
Just enjoy life, enjoy each others’ company, your particular brand of humour. Life’s too precious to seek out and destroy.
© Copyright: Sharon Lawson™