Difference in Grammatical Phrasing / Offensiveness of Words [Archive] - MensTennisForums.com

Difference in Grammatical Phrasing / Offensiveness of Words

Caesar1844
10-02-2011, 04:49 AM
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.

Topspindoctor
10-02-2011, 04:58 AM
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 :o)

Kolya
10-02-2011, 05:26 AM
"He's a black" Doesn't sound right without a noun after black.

Never heard someone say that.

Filo V.
10-02-2011, 06:16 AM
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.

Caesar1844
10-02-2011, 06:46 AM
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.

Filo V.
10-02-2011, 06:50 AM
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.

Filo V.
10-02-2011, 06:55 AM
You're right in that it's inconsistent, though.

Caesar1844
10-02-2011, 07:00 AM
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.

Filo V.
10-02-2011, 07:04 AM
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.

Pirata.
10-02-2011, 07:10 AM
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.

Caesar1844
10-02-2011, 07:23 AM
"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.

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.

Filo V.
10-02-2011, 07:26 AM
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.

Filo V.
10-02-2011, 07:32 AM
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.

Har-Tru
10-02-2011, 07:33 AM
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.

Filo V.
10-02-2011, 07:34 AM
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.

Caesar1844
10-02-2011, 07:53 AM
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.
I think you'd find a lot of women would regard their reproductive capacity as an immutable characteristic.

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.
'Gay rights' (or LGBT rights, or whatever) is a necessary distinction because 'equal rights' isn't specific enough. I mean, for example, all adults already have the equal right to get married. It's just that (in most jurisdictions) that right is limited to marrying someone of the opposite sex.

Addressing rights from a specifically homosexual perspective is necessary, because they're the stakeholders.

Filo V.
10-02-2011, 08:39 AM
You know, you're totally right on both accounts.

buddyholly
10-02-2011, 11:59 AM
He's a Catholic - generally seen as descriptive


You've never been to Northern Ireland?

buddyholly
10-02-2011, 12:02 PM
Seriously, when you use a word as an adjective it describes just one characteristic of a person. When you use it as a noun it suggests you are defining the person on that characteristic alone.

Caesar1844
10-02-2011, 12:38 PM
You've never been to Northern Ireland?
That's an extremely specific circumstance, and not really relevant to what we're talking about.

Johnny Groove
10-02-2011, 04:13 PM
I don't think what you say matters as much as your tone and how you say it.

buddyholly
10-03-2011, 07:47 PM
That's an extremely specific circumstance, and not really relevant to what we're talking about.

The following post should have alerted you that no reply was expected.

Boarder35m
10-03-2011, 11:16 PM
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.

To be honest I would disagree here with you.
Maybe it depends on the country you live in (so the North Ireland reference is not that unimportant after all) but for example in Germany a catholic is seen as something completely different than "being catholic". "A catholic" is mostly refered to someone who would really stand behind most of what comes from the Vatican, whilst most people who are catholic (at least in Germay) don´t feel that way and some would probably be very offended by being called "a catholic".

I would also disagree on "a blond" as not being offensive.
Stereotypical jokes of blondes (mostly women) are very popular, and are even the key to a lot of american sitcoms that go through the rest of the world (Kelly Bundy, big bang theory etc.). But I never see or hear "a blonde" when it come to describing men. In german there even is a noun "Blondine" which only refers to women and there is no real equivalent to a male blonde guy.

Caesar1844
10-03-2011, 11:27 PM
I am talking about English grammar, so how things translate into German is perhaps not totally relevant.

If you don't like Catholic and Blonde, use Lutheran and Brunette, or whatever. The examples are incidental, the point holds.

Ilovetheblues_86
10-04-2011, 07:22 AM
Seriously, when you use a word as an adjective it describes just one characteristic of a person. When you use it as a noun it suggests you are defining the person on that characteristic alone.

this
it probably stimulates segregation

Just like the definitive article.

Jewish people are bad- in general, but not all. offensive
The jewish people are bad- totality, more offensive and racist.

n8
10-04-2011, 10:50 AM
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.

Queer can be used as already discussed.

If it weren't for heterosexual being such a long word, I believe the term non-heterosexual would be the perfect way to describe the group. Just like non-white or non-Caucasian.

Caesar1844
10-05-2011, 03:13 AM
Queer can be used as already discussed.
Yeah, those reclaimed words are awkward for straight people. Like, I know a lot of gays who call themselves fags, lesbians who call themselves dykes, Jews who call themselves yids... but I'd probably steer clear of all those words myself for fear of offending.

I'll probably just stick to 'the gay community'. It might be a bit inaccurate but it's fairly safe.