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post #1 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-02-2011, 05:49 AM Thread Starter
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Difference in Grammatical Phrasing / Offensiveness of Words

I was chatting to someone the other day and we realised something a bit odd about words to describe different groups.

"He's black." Inoffensive, descriptive.
"He's a black." Potentially offensive.

"He's gay." Inoffensive, descriptive.
"He's a gay." Potentially offensive.

See the pattern? It goes on. It's less offensive to describe someone as 'Jewish' than 'a Jew', for example. But other stuff, it's not. Describing someone as 'Catholic' or 'a Catholic' is pretty much the same thing.

Anyone have a rational/logical explanation for this? Linguistically the differences seem pretty arbitrary and inconsistent, but practically speaking they're very real.
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post #2 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-02-2011, 05:58 AM
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Re: Difference in Grammatical Phrasing / Offensiveness of Words

The rational explanation is our society is way too politically correct these days and the offended party is always quick to play the race/sex/religion card.

Thankfully it's not as bad here in Australia as it is in US and UK - however that does not stop them from trying to stick their nose into our business. (find "offensive Australian KFC ad" on youtube and watch the shitstorm follow up from US media and youtube trolls )
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post #3 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-02-2011, 06:26 AM
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Re: Difference in Grammatical Phrasing / Offensiveness of Words

"He's a black" Doesn't sound right without a noun after black.

Never heard someone say that.

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post #4 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-02-2011, 07:16 AM
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Re: Difference in Grammatical Phrasing / Offensiveness of Words

Yeah, living in Southern USA, please believe, I've heard the term "a black". Actually, I hear "the blacks" more often. AKA Donald Trump saying.

The reasons "a black" "a gay" or "a Jew" etc. is offensive are twofold:

1) You're basing a persons' entire being on that sole characteristic.

2) The usage of the term carries a hostile one. Basically saying you're one of those people. Like it's a disease.
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post #5 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-02-2011, 07:46 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Difference in Grammatical Phrasing / Offensiveness of Words

That kind of makes sense. But it doesn't really explain the inconsistency. e.g.

He's a black - generally seen as offensive
He's a Catholic - generally seen as descriptive
He's a Jew - offensive
He's a blond - descriptive
She's a gay - offensive
She's a lesbian - descriptive

You get the idea. It all seems oddly arbitrary, from a purely linguistic perspective. I'm just wondering how it happened.
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post #6 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-02-2011, 07:50 AM
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Re: Difference in Grammatical Phrasing / Offensiveness of Words

Another reason is likely because gay (most people tend to focus on GAY when thinking of LGBT rights), black, Jew, are groups and terms that people bring up when thinking of disenfranchised, discriminated-against groups, so there is a raised sense of sensitivity when it comes to discussions of these groups as well.
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post #7 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-02-2011, 07:55 AM
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Re: Difference in Grammatical Phrasing / Offensiveness of Words

You're right in that it's inconsistent, though.
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post #8 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-02-2011, 08:00 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Difference in Grammatical Phrasing / Offensiveness of Words

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Originally Posted by Filo V. View Post
Another reason is likely because gay (most people tend to focus on GAY when thinking of LGBT rights), black, Jew, are groups and terms that people bring up when thinking of disenfranchised, discriminated-against groups, so there is a raised sense of sensitivity when it comes to discussions of these groups as well.
This must be it.

Incidentally, what's the preferred collective term for LGBT? Most gay people I know use 'gay' synonymously with 'LGBT' - i.e. when they talk about 'gay rights' and 'gay marriage' they really mean LGBT rights in general. I suppose mostly because 'LGBT' is a bit of a mouthful.
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post #9 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-02-2011, 08:04 AM
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Re: Difference in Grammatical Phrasing / Offensiveness of Words

I never use the term gay rights when I'm actually........thinking. I may casually say it, but the correct term is LGBT rights. "Gay rights" is a term too centralized, and also it makes it seem like there are special rights solely for gay people. When in reality it's human rights for legal citizens.
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post #10 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-02-2011, 08:10 AM
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Re: Difference in Grammatical Phrasing / Offensiveness of Words

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Incidentally, what's the preferred collective term for LGBT? Most gay people I know use 'gay' synonymously with 'LGBT' - i.e. when they talk about 'gay rights' and 'gay marriage' they really mean LGBT rights in general. I suppose mostly because 'LGBT' is a bit of a mouthful.
A friend of mine who is a lesbian says that a lot of other lesbian women don't like being lumped in as LGBT because most people tend to focus more on the G and overlook the LBT, especially the T. Some use 'queer' as an all-encompassing term but like the n-word there is still a lot of very negative connotation with it: a lot of the younger generation reclaimed it as a positive term, but some, as well as the older generation, still find it very offensive.

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post #11 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-02-2011, 08:23 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Difference in Grammatical Phrasing / Offensiveness of Words

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"Gay rights" is a term too centralized, and also it makes it seem like there are special rights solely for gay people. When in reality it's human rights for legal citizens.
I don't really think that's the case. It just refers to a subset of rights associated with a particular segment of the community. Like reproductive rights, or press rights, or children's rights, or whatever.

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A friend of mine who is a lesbian says that a lot of other lesbian women don't like being lumped in as LGBT because most people tend to focus more on the G and overlook the LBT, especially the T.
I have heard that. Indeed, the gay and lesbian communities actually seem very separate in my (limited) experience.
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post #12 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-02-2011, 08:26 AM
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Re: Difference in Grammatical Phrasing / Offensiveness of Words

That's very true, a lot of people do use the term queer as an all-encompassing term. And then there are gender-queers, and that's more people who don't perscribe to the stereotypes of their gender than sexual orientation. There really isn't a set term for our community. Because there are a lot of facets to it, which makes it unique in comparison to basically any other group.

It is true the "G" in the alphabet soup gets more attention, I think that's because gay culture is more immersed in mainstream society and there are more out gay men immersed in mainstream society than lesbians, bisexual, transgendered individuals, and whoever else. We're just more out there, for lack of a better way to put it, more exposure, more attention.
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post #13 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-02-2011, 08:32 AM
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Re: Difference in Grammatical Phrasing / Offensiveness of Words

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I don't really think that's the case. It just refers to a subset of rights associated with a particular segment of the community. Like reproductive rights, or press rights, or children's rights, or whatever.
I disagree because reproductive rights, press rights, those aren't describing an actual immutable characteristic of an individual, it's an actual "thing". Gay isn't a thing, it's an immutable trait. And it's one trait that is one part of what makes up who we are as individuals. We're human at the end of the day, not a sexuality. That's why I use the term human rights when discussing equality more often than not. We're all human beings, we all bleed red, and all legal citizens require equal rights, that's what it's all about ultimately.
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post #14 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-02-2011, 08:33 AM
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Re: Difference in Grammatical Phrasing / Offensiveness of Words

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Originally Posted by Filo V. View Post
Another reason is likely because gay (most people tend to focus on GAY when thinking of LGBT rights), black, Jew, are groups and terms that people bring up when thinking of disenfranchised, discriminated-against groups, so there is a raised sense of sensitivity when it comes to discussions of these groups as well.
This is the key point, I believe.

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post #15 of 27 (permalink) Old 10-02-2011, 08:34 AM
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Re: Difference in Grammatical Phrasing / Offensiveness of Words

Lesbian women and gay men have our own cultures and our own "rules" within our cultures, but trust, we have each others' back when need be. We chill with each other, but we do our own thing also.
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