13 November 2007

Those words

I was looking through my downloaded podcasts yesterday and saw that Larry King had interviewed Duane 'Dog' Chapman last week. For those of you with lives, Dog is the latest in a long line of white celebrities that have been caught saying nigger on tape. The Dog sort of got screwed because it was his son who made the tape of him saying, in part:
I don't care if she's a Mexican, a whore or whatever. It's not because she's black, it's because we use the word nigger sometimes here. I'm not gonna take a chance ever in life of losing everything I've worked for for 30 years because some fucking nigger heard us say nigger and turned us into the Enquirer magazine. Our career is over! I'm not taking that chance at all! Never in life! Never! Never!
Yeah, it's ironic, I'm sure. But in this interview Dog said something interesting: There are words that should never be used by anyone at anytime. Now, there is a statement loaded with ramifications. These words that no one should use — who decides what they are? Dog does? The Catholic Church? Al Sharpton? Obviously, whomever you pick, you're going to have problems. Now, can I think of a time when I would want to use the n-word? Not really, but why should we tie our hands?

Unfortunately for Dog, language can't be made to behave properly all the time. Once you impose restrictions on it, it bucks them because language is a huge, evolving organism made up of trillions and trillions of daily uses. And individual use, even if you impose penalties or laws or societal rules, cannot be restricted. So maybe Dog should be more careful, but let's not pull the plug on a whole word over it.