6 Campaigns (That Want to Control What You Say)

  • July 22, 2010
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The French Government and e-mail

Ananas, pamplemousse, la petite mort... it’s like those French people have a different word for everything. Except, it seems, when it comes to the digital age. As many have noted, the internet is dominated by Romantic/Germanic languages as a whole and English in particular (and American English in particular-particular). Many of the new terms that have passed into the common speech have no equivalent in other languages, and apparently that sticks in French government’s craw like a week old baguette.


What kind of francophone nonsense is this?

So the French Culture Ministry finally put its foot down and instituted a government-wide ban on the word “e-mail”. The replacement word that is now being used in its place is “courriel”, which is a portmanteau of “courrier electronique”, the French words for electronic mail. You didn’t misunderestimate that: American bureaucrats are not the only ones who can make up new words.


G.W. Bush photo and jokes courtesy of The Daily circa three years ago and last week, respectively.

The government claims that the phrase “courrier electronique” is widely used, and since the term courriel is used in French Canada, it’s a natural fit. Except the slang from France and Quebec are separated by about 400 years of linguistic evolution, and nobody actually uses the word in France. Maybe the government just had to justify the expense of paying a bunch of old cranks in a bogus Ministry panel to complain about how nobody speaks French for fourteen years running.


Think B4 You Speak

Well, considering the “super hip” lingo that really “down” with the kids, you can assume that this is a cutting edge campaign aimed at the youth of today. Twitter! Gee-Mail! MyFace! You might be tempted to think it’s another attempt to stop kids from “sexting” or, better yet, from using bogus shorthand words in day to day speech. This is not the case.


Oddly enough, we do support this.

It’s actually a sort of a new idea people have been kicking around for a while: not hating on homosexuals. Actually, that’s not exactly true. A campaign that discussed sexual preferences in a frank and open way while stressing tolerance would certainly be helpful, but apparently not as helpful as just getting kids to stop using certain words. Specifically, you can’t say “fag” or “dyke” as well as refraining from using “gay” in a negative sense (i.e. that’s gay, you’re gay, etc). Their reasoning differs significantly from the people banning the ‘n’ or ‘r’-words though.

No, ThinkB4YouSpeak is trying to make people stop using the words specifically when they aren’t intended as negative or hurtful. They believe this will stop bullying. That’s right, the best way to stop LGBT kids from getting harassed is by indirectly targeting behavior though public service announcements. The other issue in play is that since the words are simply slang, they have other meanings as well. Fag, for example, officially means to “tire or weary by labor”, stemming from “fagge”, the loose end of cloth. It also means “cigarette” in some countries, was used hundreds of years ago to make fun of grandmothers (see the connection with tired and weary?) and finally found use as a dig at gays.

So maybe stopping the use of a 550 year old word in casual conversation will make people start loving each other unconditionally, but we wouldn’t bank on it.


The “No Cussing Club”

The previous entries on this list may have been bad ideas or good ideas with poor execution, but they came from at least semi-reasonable places. Defending culture, stopping discrimination, and protecting children are all good things to do. In fact they all address serious problems, ones right up there with war, poverty and Dan Aykroyd’s ceaselessly expending waistline.


Get help Dan. They don’t make XXXL Ghostbuster suits.

But the No Cussing Club feels that the real problem is spicy language, in any and all forms. Supposedly, it was started by a 14 year old kid who claims to be the most cyberbullied kid in the world (because that makes him capable of giving psychological help instead of requiring it, somehow). While there is debate whether or not his parents actually wrote his material for him and use him for money and pushing their own work, the important thing is the “movement”. They feel that by stopping profanity, they can end violence in schools.

The campaign encourages two things: spending money on officially licensed merchandise, and getting as many people as possible to pledge never to swear again. The entire idea is so laughable, and the logic behind it so asinine (see what we did there?) that it’s a wonder the people in charge can tie their shoes, much less organize manage a nation-wide, thinly veiled Christian program.


Not only is it a blatant cash grab, the poor fool’s first name is “McKay”?

The backwards ideology that this campaign is based on (and several others from this list, though to a much lesser extent) is that words create thoughts, rather than the other way around. In fact, they even suggest using substitute words to replace “cusses”, words like fudge, darn, heck and so forth. Apparently, the intent behind the word is less important than the word itself. This is simply not true. If you think of the most hurtful things someone can say to you, they usually aren’t hurtful because they drop a few f-bombs, but because of the emotion impact behind the words. That’s why it cut so deep when your parents told you they weren’t mad, just disappointed.

The No-Cussing Club further mandates that you should also refrain from negative language in any context. Miss the bus? No cussing. Get a hefty credit card bill? No cussing. Cut off your own thumb in a soundproof basement where nobody could ever hear you? No cussing. Intent and thoughts don’t matter, just words! Relentless, Twilight Zone-esque positivity and happiness is the only world for the No Cussers. And if you have to do it by shunning your former friends who let fly an expletive when they stub their toe, that’s a small price to pay. Given the chance, we’d like to let them know how we really feel.

You can catch Kevin’s expletive filled thoughts by following him on Twitter.

Got news of another group stepping all over your free speech for poorly thought out reasons? Post a comment below!

Written by Kevin Mack – Copyrighted © www.weirdworm.com Image Sources

Image sources:

  • - The City of Liverpool and Fat Kids: http://lifewithouttaffy.files.wordpress.com/2006/02/fatkid.jpg
  • - Ban the N Word: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/f3/Sp1101watjj.jpg http://y100fm.com/images/2009/04/billy%20raye%20cd_o.jpg
  • - The R Word: http://stopsayingretard.files.wordpress.com/2008/08/stopsayingretard.jpg?w=489&h=272 http://digitalblueglobal.files.wordpress.com/2008/12/polar-bear-funny-dog-death-hug.jpg
  • - The French Government and e-mail: http://www.hooleon.com/miva/graphics/00000001/kb-0046-french-close-large.jpg http://static.open.salon.com/files/bush_turkey1232551419.jpg
  • - Think B4 You Speak: http://yourtattoosucks.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/omg-lol-jesus.jpg
  • - The “No Cussing Club”: http://img.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2008/02_01/danakroyd1WENN_468x637.jpg http://theapostolicreport.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/288_ncc_book_photo2.jpg