21 October 2005

"Insurgents" or "terrorists"

I haven't kept up my linguistics dialog as I have been too busy reading to comment on any of it. I am finishing the first part of the written discourse unit and let me tell you, it's like the sky opened up and rained Skittles or men or something. Did I ever write about dancing with some gay Filipinos to the song "It's Raining Men"? Now that was surreal.

Anyway, maybe some of you have been saying, "Sure, discourse analysis is sexy, I'll admit that. But what's the point talking about words? Seems like a big fat waste of time, if you ask me or my cousin Kip. Now, let's go have a beer." Certainly, I'd like to have a drink with your cousin, but I think you might be a little misguided about our friend. She is very helpful and useful and not just for intellectual masturbation, although I love intellectual masturbation as much as the next person. In fact, discourse analysis helps us all put our finger on that "intangible" thing that makes you think, "Now, that comment sounds terribly racist, sexist, or stupid, but I can't really tell why" or "That newspaper story seems really contrived, but I can't really tell why" or "The language of story seems really worn out. Why is that?"  Discourse analysis comes in and says, "Let's stop bullshitting and talk clause relation."

I've been reading a lot of articles in which Feminists or lit. critics take swings at their given targets by criticizing the language used instead of the idea or argument. A quick example: Are the fighters opposing the new Iraqi government "insurgents" or "terrorists"? You tell me what word you use and I'll tell you your political affiliation. Were the events of September 11th a "crime" or an act of "war"? You get people saying the right word and you can do just about anything. I like to use the word "ass" to refer to the smell of my apartment. Think about the difference between, "My apartment smells like ass" vs. "My apartment smells bad."

Maybe the example wasn't so hot. At least not as hot as dancing with gay Filipino men.