Friday, February 5, 2010

"I am so sorry to be retarded..."


There's been a lot of flap in the last few days about Rahm Emanuel's use of the word "retarded" to describe some left-wingers who planned to campaign against any conservative Democratic politician who opposed Obama's health care plan. Actually, I think what he called retarded was the plan, not the the planners themselves.

In any case, this gave Sarah Palin her customary cue to leap on a glib side issue, so that she can garner even more unjustified publicity. Seriously, that woman cannot generate public attention by coming up with creative new policy ideas, or offering any detailed rational solutions to our country's problems. What she CAN do though, is get into verbal tiffs with other celebrities and public figures over trite, easy-to-comprehend social issues to keep the culture war burning.

This time, it wasn't David Letterman who Palin was word-policing. It was Rahm Emanuel. She suggested that he be fired or resign, even though her sweethearts Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have used the R-word many a time.

Which brings me to the actual "R-word." Yes, it seems as though we have yet another word with a capital letter before it. First it was the F-word, then it was the N-word, then it was the B-word, and now it's the R-word.

Today on Facebook, a friend of mine referenced it, writing something like, "The R-word is mean and hurtful and should not be used." Accompanying her statement was a video that she was posting. It was a montage of people on TV saying the R-word.

Well, I had no idea what the R-word was. I sat there for a few seconds, scouring my brain, trying to figure our what the R in the R-word could possibly stand for.

The Rahm Emanuel flap was not in my mind at the time, so I was totally stumped. I knew that I could quickly find out by watching the video, but I resisted clicking "play" until I could guess what the R-word was.

Since it was a woman who found the R-word offensive, I started out thinking of crude words for the female private parts... "Cunt? No, that starts with a C.... Pussy? Naw, P.... Queef? No, that's a Q, and it's not even a part of the female anatomy..."

Then I switched to racial possibilities. The N-word was out, so I tried other racially insensitive terms. "Spic? No, S. Dago? No, D. Chink? No, C....."

Finally, I gave up and watched the video.


THAT'S what the R-word was! Duh! How could I not have guessed that, due to the recent Rahm flap?

Now let me say, that I'm so tremendously fond of the woman who posted the video and used the R-word. She is one of my favorite Facebook friends. She is a rational, sensible, open-minded, smart-as-hell person with a sharp sense of humor. We agree on virtually everything, and I couldn't respect her more. But I must say that I resented her a bit, for having introduced yet another upper case letter-word into our vocabulary, or at least for having spread it around more.

I am so sick of these childish words. N-word, B-word, S-word, F-word, R-word....

Are we in 3rd grade?

"Awmm! You said the R-word! I'm gonna tell the teacher!"

I'm a Latino of mostly Spanish ancestry. I would rather hear a person refer to the word "spic" as "The word 'spic'," than as "The S-word." I think it's very silly to hear an adult say, "And then he used the S-word."

What does the S-word refer to? Shit? Slut? Stupid? Spic? What?!?

This is so much better: "And then he used the word 'spic'."

As a Hispanic, I much prefer this, mainly because I was last a student in elementary school in the '70s, so "S-word" sounds pretty puerile to me in the year 2010.

Believe it or not, not all liberals are politically correct cadets. I, a total, unabashed liberal, abhor political correctness. I can't stand how a person can lose his job over a verbal slip-up. Of course there are some verbal slip-ups that are more severe than others.

Any public official who refers to any black person as "a nigger," or a gay man as "a faggot," or a Mexican as "a wetback," should get booted out of office. However, if a public official calls any man "a prick" or any woman "a bitch," well, that to me is not a fireable offense. It is an offense that demands apology and a lot of eating crow, but it doesn't demand firing.

It's just different. It's a slip-up, but I really don't feel that "bitch" signifies misogyny, or that "prick" signifies misanthropy. After all, I'm a man, and I call other men pricks all the time (under my breath or in private, of course). It doesn't mean I hate men, or that I think men are inferior. It just means that that particular man really annoyed me, angered me or offended me. Is it a bit childish to call a man a prick? Sure, but it's not as childish as calling him a P-word. Bill O'Reilly is a prick, not a P-word (same thing for Glenn Beck).

Same thing with "bitch" and the even more offensive "cunt" (I LOVE that word. It's so strong!). I adore women. In my opinion, it is women who make this planet a livable place. If it weren't for women, this world would be a real cesspool. I actually think that if there IS a superior gender, women are it, no contest. I truly admire them. They are complicated and fabulous. But don't you dare tell me not to mutter the word "cunt" when I see Nancy Grace or Michelle Malkin on TV. Don't you dare. "Cunt," to me, is the perfect word to describe those two bitches, so please don't limit my vocabulary at all times. If it offends you, I won't say it around you. After all, I'm not a prick. But I refuse to erase "cunt" from my vocabulary.

Now let me wrap up this vile piece with a very funny story.

In 1999, I lived in Milan, Italy, where I worked as an English teacher. One of my favorite students was Francesca, a smart, funny, charming, beautiful blond a great sense of fashion, but not a great aptitude for learning English. I'm sure she was great at math, though...

Well, I moved back to New York City in 2000, and, to my delight, she soon moved to New York to do an internship with a fashion designer.

Whenever I'd call her at her boss's office in Manhattan, she would always answer the phone like this: "Hello, I am Francesca."

No matter how many times I'd tell her, in Italian, "Francesca, that's not how it's said in English when you answer the phone. You can say, 'Hello, this is Francesca,' or you can say, 'Hello, Francesca speaking,' but you can't say, 'Hello, I am Francesca.' It's just not said that way."

She'd tell me that she understood, but I'd call her a few days later, and she'd say, "Hello, I AM FRANCESCA."

The problem was that she was translating her thoughts from Italian to English, and in Italian you would say, "Buon giorno, sono Francesca" (Sono means "I am").

Which brings me to the night when Francesca used to R-word to some shocked Americans in a trendy, swanky lounge.

It was a trendy, swanky lounge. I wanted to introduce her to some of my friends. We were to meet at a certain hour, like 8 or 9 o'clock. Of course she was running late. Francesca was always running late. Even when I'd try to fool her into arriving on time by telling her the meeting time was a half-hour earlier, she'd still show up late.

Well, in Italian, the way you say "I'm running late," is Sono in ritardo. Both English and Italian get the word "retarded" from Latin, thus the similarity. However, in Italian, it has evolved to primarily mean "late" wheras in English it primarily means, well, we know what it means.

So Francesca arrives to the lounge, flustered and out of breath, and about an hour late. After I introduce her to my friends, she profusely apologizes for having been in ritardo, so she says to them, "Hello. Hello. Hello. I am SO retarded. I know I am. I am totally retarded. You must please forgive me, it is just the way I always am. I am retarded. I am so sorry to be retarded..."

My friends' jaws dropped and their eyes popped open. I had to explain to them the language mix-up, and when she realized what she said, she said, "Oh my God! I really AM retarded! I am retarded in the Italian sense and I am retarded in the English sense! I am so retarded!"

My friends laughed uneasily. Poor Francesca. In addition to not having mastered the English language, she also hadn't mastered American political correctness. She should have used the R-WORD once she knew the English meaning of retarded.

Didn't she know what a touchy, sensitive place the USA is...?

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