'Bad words' vs 'good words'?

Monday, August 12, 2019

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Dear Editor,

On the subject of “bad words” and “good words” and the current issue of whether to discontinue the official ban on expletives at various dancehall and other public concert events, as advocated by People's National Party (PNP) Senator Andre Haughton and The University of the West Indies Professor Carolyn Cooper, here are some important factors to consider.

(1) It is true that words are neither “bad” nor “good”, without context, association(s) and/or subjective interpretation.

(2) Every word has a semantic range — a range of possible meanings or interpretations (good/bad) depending on custom, cultural context and socialisation, and the speaker's intent.

(3) Dictionaries give definitions of words, not meanings. Meanings come primarily from the speaker's intent and from other factors mentioned above.

(4) Many words/phrases/expressions in the Jamaican vernacular are more often used or intended to add colour, power, and otherwise inexpressible meanings or sentiments to a statement or conversation, than to express anger or violence.

Hence, and as Professor Cooper clearly understands, the biblical reference to “all our righteousness” being as “filthy rags” (menstrual cloth), could easily, and correctly read, or be translated, in the Jamaican vernacular.

Notwithstanding all of the above, however, and while acknowledging that it is indeed time to stop criminalising Jamaicans simply for using indecent language or bad words, it is also important to recognise the need for caution and good sense, and for things to be done decently and in order at every level and in every sector of our society.

Advocates for and against should listen/communicate carefully to understand what is being said, rather than just to oppose or curse each other, with or without expletives.

Of note, also, is the belief held by some that the only real bad words may be those that are used to substitute or “take in vain” the true name and title of the eternal creator — Yahweh Elohim Yahshua. (Yahweh refers to the “Father”, Elohim is a divine title for “The Word” or Son, and Yahshua is the name of the Holy Spirit, manifested in or out of a physical body. See Exodus 3, Psalm 103:7, Isaiah 8.20, Luke 24.25 -44, Mark 16:15 , Matthew 28.19, etc)

Finally, in dealing seriously with the issues of good and bad words, it will be helpful, ultimately, to be able to distinguish between the “living word” (John 1), the spoken word, and the written word (scriptures) with special attention to Isaiah 8:20.

And before you reach into your expletive-laden or enhanced vocabulary to “class me” for my biblical references, just remember that “all (our) righteousness”, which is not according to “this word” (Isaiah 8.20/John 1:1), is nothing more than a bunch of “filthy rags”, in a manner of speaking.

Selah!

C Anthony

Kingston 10

carltongor@gmail.com


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