Wednesday, February 07, 2007

On Naughty Words And Blogging

The filthy language of many bloggers causes tut-tutting all over the Beltway and leads into campaigns such as the one I discuss below (in that post where I blew my stack which a blogger is never allowed to do because now we know that bloggers blow their stacks!). I get very angry at this horror of the naughty words but not because I would like filthy language. I hardly ever use it in my private life and I use it in blogging only when no other word quite says what I want to say. The value of a naughty word in an unexpected place is that it can shock someone into reading or listening in a different way, and sometimes filthy words are all one can choose to describe something much filthier. The killing of civilians at war, for example.

So I get angry at those who find naughty words horrible but who don't mind death and violence, as long as we talk about it in euphemisms. It is the two-facedness of this which is filthy, much filthier than any word I can think of. And this is what so much of the discussion about the horrible bloggers amounts to: If you only talked about beheading and hanging people nicely, with flowery descriptions of the ruby-red blood and the quivering intestines, well, that would be acceptable. It's also fine to crow over the death and destruction of your enemies or people who look like your enemies. But if you describe these violent scenes and swear, then you are doomed to the outer peripheries of all civilized worlds. It is the feelings, feelings of outrage and sadness and anger, which are seen as uncivilized.

And not only uncivilized but illogical. Because bloggers often write with feeling they are assumed to be illogical, not thinking at all. This is odd. There is no law against thinking and feeling at the same time, rather the opposite. That's how human beings mostly live.

Then there is the whole question of the literary style of blogs. Blogging is not the same as writing a long article for publication. It is an almost-instant form of communication, intended to be less edited and less distanced, and the rules of this new genre are different. A naughty word doesn't have the same power to shock as it might have smack in the middle of the front page of a newspaper, because it doesn't carry the same connotations. Its power to shock is closer to the power it would have to shock someone around the corporate water-fountain or during a lunch with friends. Blogs are somewhere inbetween conversations like that and published articles, and blog critics should learn the rules of this new genre.