language, overly helpful people, rants

Hey Digga!

Here comes another one of my rants about overly sensitive language cops. It comes this morning as my friend from my hometown shared a news article about a professor at the University of Southern California, who went viral for teaching about pause or filler words in China and using a word that sounded a lot like the n-bomb.

Professor Greg Patton, who teaches communications, was talking about the Chinese equivalent of “err” and “um”, you know, what we in English speaking countries say as we’re thinking about the next thing we’re going to say, but we don’t want “dead air”. It turns out that in Chinese, the “filler” language akin to our “ums” and “errs” is the Chinese word for “that”, which is evidently “na-ge”. And spoken out loud, “na-ge” sounds a bit like the taboo n-bomb.

Naturally, someone was filming the professor, and the footage made it to the Internet. Several students complained to Geoffrey Garrett, dean of the University of Southern California. And now, Professor Patton is no longer teaching the course. According to the article, Patton voluntarily stepped away, as Garrett stated:

“It is simply unacceptable for the faculty to use words in class that can marginalize, hurt and harm the psychological safety of our students,”

News of the debacle reached China, where native speakers posted on social media that the backlash was discriminatory toward speakers of Chinese. Interestingly enough, I have another friend who lived in China for awhile and she frequently told me about how racist their society is. In fact, in the Toytown Germany thread I reference later in this post, someone wrote this:

Silly and sad, just shows you how people are tripping over themselves to show how not a racist! they are. Big smiiiiiiles, eeeeeeveryone’s happy, no one’s racist here, nosirreee… All a little different from actually not being racist.

As an aside, China is an objectively far more racist society. Pot, kettle, black. The Chinese government knows full well what resonates in foreign media for political effect. Their diplomats will criticize America’s racism, while within China, Africans are called chocolate or monkeys and many restaurants or hotels forbid entry. Not to mention the current Uyghur concentration camps. There are no self-reflective large anti-racism movements.

A few months back, veteran Canadian news reporter Wendy Mesley for the CBC (like the BBC) got in deep doodoo for betraying her secret racism. While in a conference room with producers (apparently none Black?), discussing a specific episode of her show and how they should cover BLM protests and racial issues, she said that word while discussing how they should refer to this work here. It’s the title. The discussion was about that and she said the title. She was (temporarily?) removed as host and issued an apology, etc. Confession and repentance, 50 Hail Marys and 50 Our Fathers.

Obviously the word shouldn’t be used, but it’s hard to see what this kind of official censure for using it in (closed door) academic/historical contexts achieves. The reporter is known for her progressive liberal stances. Of course, CBC as a state broadcaster had to do something… 

My reaction to this? Big sigh. I have already written more than once about my strong aversion to burying language and banning words, particularly when they are words that only sound like offensive words. I am also extremely irritated when people don’t have their facts straight and attempt to ban words based on untruths. But, most of all, it disappoints and offends me that people who attend a prestigious school like the University of Southern California are not intelligent enough to understand the difference between someone deliberately being hurtful by using clearly derogatory and racist language, and a professor who is actually trying to educate them about another culture and language.

Seriously? My opinion of the California USC (as opposed to the “original” USC, my alma mater, the University of South Carolina), has now dropped considerably. With all of the other crap going on right now, one would hope a famous and storied school like USC, where parents are going to prison and paying fines for cheating their kids’ ways past the admissions office, could rise above something as petty as this without it making the news. I certainly don’t think a man’s livelihood should be threatened over this incident. And it should not be international news, either!

What the hell are colleges and universities for if there can’t be a free exchange of ideas without people getting offended? Colleges and universities are supposed to be places where ideas can be born and hashed out, and language can be used in an instructional way. Professor Patton was not trying to be offensive. He was trying to educate! That’s his job!

You might be wondering about the title of this post. It comes from a recent thread on a Web site called Toytown Germany, which I joined in 2008, when we lived in Germany the first time (pre-Facebook days). I still hang out on Toytown Germany on occasion, as it’s a very useful source of information about living in Germany and the information isn’t strictly for the U.S. military affiliated population. That site has many people on it from all around the world, including Germans. The one thing they have in common is the ability to speak English.

Anyway, recently, a woman who teaches in a German school started a post about the German slang word “digga” and how she finds it offensive. The original poster teaches in an inner city school in Cologne. She’s a native English speaker from an “ethnic minority background” and she writes that she doesn’t generally try to prevent her students from using slang. However, she tried to draw the line at the word “digga”, because it sounded a lot like the n-bomb and she felt her students were using the word in a derogatory way. Clearly, it was triggering her a lot.

“Digga” is a word that originated near Hamburg. It’s basically akin to the English slang terms, “dude” or “bro”. She wrote:

I banned the word ‘digga’ in my class and I told the students that they should be ashamed to be using such language whilst considering themselves anti-racist and progressive. Now I have had a bit of pushback from a few parents who say I shouldn’t stop kids from using their German language slang.

I have had to bite my own tongue and hold back. I think  parents need to listen to the music their kids are listening to, they need to pay attention to the media their kids are consuming but most are quite naive or really don’t want to know.

This lady also got quite a pushback in Toytown Germany, which isn’t surprising. That forum is not exactly “politically correct” and people will not hesitate to tell off anyone who comes off as ignorant. Many people told the teacher she was wrong to ban the word “digga”, as it is not a racist epithet. This was the first of many comments she got:

digga comes from “dicker” (a kind of fond way of addressing someone who is your friend, and it also has nothing to do with them actually being fat), it has no associations to nigga whatsoever and I agree with the parents that you are overreacting as well as overreaching.  It is also not a new phenomenon, has been popular at least as long as I have lived here although back in the early 2000s it seemed like more of a Hamburg thing that kind of made its way over.

In any case it really has nothing to do with nigga.  

One person was sympathetic to the teacher’s plight and wrote this:

Verbal violence is a form of abuse and precursor to other violence. It all starts somewhere. Sigh. Fighting it is an uphill battle. Letting slip leads to the abnormal becoming normalised. Saying nothing condones this undesirable behaviour. This possibly escapes the attention of the parents. However, their and your energy is limited and you have to choose how to use it. The insider connoisseurs claim the expression is harmless… but you see it in context. You don’t have an easy job!

Okay, but words are always evolving. I can think of a half dozen of them right off the bat that once were totally innocuous and later turned into insults that need to be banned. The word “faggot”, as well as its abbreviated form “fag”, for instance, has a few meanings, only one of which is derogatory. And yet if you say that word in certain places, you will face a huge backlash.

Ditto for the word “retard”, which is a perfectly innocent word with forms that are used in many languages. In fact, we heard it correctly used in France and Italy– it had to do with the train schedules. But now it’s pretty much banned in the United States.

It seems to me that we focus way too much on words and not nearly enough on attitudes and context. Instead of banning words and firing hapless professors who use certain words in their classes, we should take a moment to consider the context. Was the professor trying to be hurtful when he used that word? Was the professor being oppressive? In the case involving the USC professor, I don’t think so. In the case involving the teacher in Germany, I would argue that trying to impose the standards of one’s own language and homeland to people from another country is overreaching.

Banning words or making them taboo doesn’t change negative attitudes. A person can be racist and never drop the n-bomb. A person can be non-racist and use the n-bomb in an instructive way. Think it can’t be done? Try reading a slave narrative and banning that word. Try listening to certain musical selections where it’s referenced. “Living for the City” by Stevie Wonder immediately comes to mind, as it has in my previous rants about this topic.

To the teacher’s credit, she did come back and thank everyone for setting her straight. Ultimately, she was looking for clarification and the right way to handle this situation, even taking into account that she has an “obvious walking disability” and is a person from “an ethnic minority background”. The thread continued for several pages and was revived when the news came out about the professor at the University of Southern California.

Again, I reference what Dean Geoffrey Garrett said in response to the uproar about the Chinese filler speech that sounds like the n-bomb…

“It is simply unacceptable for the faculty to use words in class that can marginalize, hurt and harm the psychological safety of our students,”

Wow. So he’s very concerned about the “psychological safety” of students in a world where they have been regularly threatened by school shooters, terrorists, cops who kill innocent people, and deadly rogue viruses like COVID-19? I mean… people are getting killed or dying by the day in the United States, sometimes while just sleeping in their own beds! And he’s worried that his students will be permanently scarred by the Chinese word “na-ge”, which just happens to sound like the n-bomb, an English slur? Seems to me that the dean needs to gain a global perspective and stop being so politically correct. Don’t be so open-minded that your brain falls out. That’s my motto.

Right now, many people are focused on simple SURVIVAL. The people who are lucky enough to attend the University of Southern California ought to know the difference between someone being hateful and derogatory toward a group of people and someone who is talking about another culture with another language. They need to grow up and wise up. In the vast majority of cases, if they’re at USC, they obviously have had a lot of things go right in their lives.

They’re in a class where they’re learning about something that most people would never have the opportunity to study because they’re too busy learning skills that will keep them alive and able to pay their bills! They are probably the last people who need to be up in arms over a professor teaching them about Chinese filler words that happen to sound like a racist epithet in some parts of the world. And if they’re offended in the classroom in California, God help them if they go to China and actually hear Chinese people saying “Na-ge” over and over again. There will be many special snowflake meltdowns!

Jeez!

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silliness

Muscle knots and magic fingers…

Lately, Bill and I have started doing jigsaw puzzles together. We’ve completed two that were 300 pieces and we’re now working on one that is 1000 pieces. I used to love doing puzzles when I was a lot younger and more flexible. Unfortunately, now, we lack a good sized table for puzzles. I’ve taken to doing them on a coffee table I bought from Novica.com a few years ago, but it’s just slightly too low. Also, the living room isn’t well lit enough to do the puzzles at night.

We did one of the smaller puzzles on the floor, but that was really hard on my body. We have nice rugs in this house, but we’re still sitting on the hard floor, craned over the puzzle. This puzzle was pretty difficult. It took about seven hours to complete it. The one we’re doing now, we decided to do on the coffee table again. It’s just easier on the body.

As I get older, my body hurts. It’s especially bad in the morning, probably because we really need a new mattress. I get up and my right hip and lower back throb. Sometimes, it’s hard to walk or make basic movements without pain until my muscles warm up. American king sized mattresses in Germany aren’t so easy to acquire. I guess we could order one from AAFES, but then we’d have to get it delivered. It may get to a point at which we’ll do that, if we stay here for much longer. Bill should know what is going to happen with his company’s contract soon.

Anyway, last night my lower back and right shoulder were crying for relief, so I asked Bill to step on my back. He hates to do this, since he’s afraid he’s going to hurt me. Truth be told, it does kind of hurt when he presses on my sore muscles and ligaments. But then when he takes his foot off my back, I get a rush of endorphins and whatever metabolic crap is stuck in my muscles dissipates. It’s like magic.

What’s even more magical, though, is Bill’s ability to find the sore spots on my shoulders. I don’t know how he does this. He says he just gets a feeling when he gets to the right spot, and describes the tissue under the skin as “depressed”. Nine times out of ten, I don’t even have to tell him where to go. Somehow, he just knows. And even though his hands are tired and sore, he willingly works the knots out so I’ll be more comfortable. I’m lucky that he’s so empathetic. I think if he hadn’t been a soldier, he would have been great in any of the nurturing/healing fields. Then I’d have to share him!

Moving on…

Joe and Kendra Duggar have started the bumper crop of baby girls that will be born to the Duggar family this fall/winter. Their daughter, Addison Renee, was born on November 2, 2019. She is just seventeen months younger than her older brother, Garrett David. Lots of people in the Life is Not All Pickles and Hairspray Facebook group have opined on the baby’s name. Personally, I like it. I mean, I wouldn’t name a baby Addison, because it reminds me of Mister Ed. There was a character on that show called “Addison”. Others have said they think of Addison’s Disease when they hear the name Addison, which is apparently a very popular name now. However… I still think it’s a good name, since it’s not something totally ridiculous like Jessa’s eldest son, Spurgeon. Spurgeon is damned lucky he’s so cute.

I used to watch this show on Nick at Nite in the 80s. I was horse crazy in those days.

Joy Anna Forsyth was supposed to be having a baby right about now, but she lost her daughter, Annabell Elise, to a very tragic miscarriage over the summer. Now, we’re waiting for Lauren and Josiah, Josh and Anna, and John David and Abbie to have their girls. Oh… and cousin Amy had her baby boy last month, too. That family is exploding like Josh’s dick when he’s viewing porn. I don’t watch their show anymore, though. It’s just too boring.

And finally…

Yesterday, I inadvertently learned two German words for “pussy”. I didn’t set out to learn them. My German friend taught me the more vulgar one, Möse (pronounced Moo-zeh), because it’s apparently the name of a village in northern Germany. She quipped that it was probably embarrassing for the natives to say they were from there. I commented on Facebook that I’d learned the German word for pussy, and another German friend posted “Muschi“? Muschi also means pussy, but it’s supposedly less vulgar and can also be used for cats– as in “pussycat”.

As I have pointed out in my travel blog, Austria and Germany are rife with town names that are now kind of embarrassing. Austria has both Fucking and Fuckersberg, both places Bill and I visited in 2015. Germany has Kissing and Petting… but they also have Pups (fart), Kothausen (shit house), and Pissdorf. There’s even a map of these bucket list worthy places. I also learned that the word “Kot” is another word for shit, besides Sheisse. It’s hard to believe that people would name their town after shit, but maybe that’s a reflection of the past. I know Germans can be remarkably blunt about some things.

Well, the sun is out, so maybe the dog and I will take a walk. That will make it easier for Arran to get rid of his Kot and me to get rid of my knots.

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