The Nature of Offense

When you speak, to whom do the meaning of your words belong?

If you were to say something like “I would sell my watch here, but I’m afraid we would get raped on the price,” and the person to whom you are talking to is offended by the word “rape”, who owns that?

Is it their fault for reading too far into the meaning of the word? Is it their fault if that word, "rape", conjures up images that makes them physically react?

Is it your fault for not knowing this? Or, worse, if you did know, would it then be your fault because you chose to ignore that? …After all, you certainly don’t mean the evil things that “rape” implies.

Personally, I think the meanings of words belong to the listener. Words are, after all, communication. It’s the responsibility of the person communicating to use language that conveys the intended meaning. …I could speak German at you all day: it’s worthless if you can’t understand a lick of it. ...A gross analogy, but I think the point is the same: if “nigger” is going to cause someone to hate you, don’t say it.

At the same time, however, I would add that you have the right to say whatever you want. You may not own your words, but you own the reaction.

Shut the fuck up if you think someone “took it the wrong way”. : ) It’s on you. That’s why it’s called communication. Sometimes you fail. Figure it out.

Some part of me understands the adverse reaction that "political correctness" has created. It is obnoxious that you must be careful about what you say. ...And yet, I think it's undeniably the speaker's responsibility to be aware of the listener's interpretation.

Where do you stand?

No comments: