Disclaimer: This post contains words that have a proven history of offending some people.. If, after reading this post, you suffer from hurt feelings or righteous indignation, I am not to be held responsible. You’ve been warned. Proceed with caution.
Author and friend of the blog Steve Harper recently posted on his blog about people who DEMAND your time and then berate you if you can’t drop whatever you’re doing and meet them.
He called those people “wankers” and advised us to write them off because they’re more trouble than what they’re worth.
Well, next thing you know, our friend of the blog is getting deluged with e-mails saying how offended they are at the word “wanker”.
Harper, being the salt of the Earth guy he is, sent apology e-mails to them saying how he didn’t mean to offend.
But if I had gotten those e-mails, I would have just said:
Seriously, I think these days people are WAY too offended. It’s like someone handed out pills that takes away a person’s sense of humor.
I’ve written other blogs before. When I used to blog, I was scared to death of “offending” people. But I learned the hard way that no matter what you write someone is going to be offended. It’s only a matter of time. Write about the importance of a sense of humor, and someone will come out and say that you’re making light of people’s problems (yeah…it DID happen).
So, I thought it’s better to write what you believe and take the consequences than tone down your opinion because someone somewhere might get offended. They’ll get offended if they don’t agree with you.
“Offensive Language” is Clear
In one of my reviews I called a book “one of the dumbest books I’ve ever read”. Are you confused about my opinion? But what if I wrote this:
This book does not challenge the brain in a way that I am used to being challenged by books.
Not so clear, huh?
I have at other times referred to some people as idiots, morons, or stupid.
If you think those words are offensive, well…what can I do? Should I refer to them as factually-challenged?
Know the Words That Offend Thee
But what really got me angry on this was the people complaining about “wanker” was not that they were offended per se, but that they were accusing my friend of not knowing what it means.
Many so “helpfully” pointed out the origin of the British slang. They noted how wanker comes from the verb “to wank”, which we all know what that means (if not, please look it up in a dictionary).
But I thought…huh?
I watch a ton of British comedy and they use “wanker” all the time. And I was a HUGE fan of the Australian TV show “The Chaser’s War on Everything”. They toss out “wanker” and “tosser” like you wouldn’t believe. It certainly was never used to describe a person who “wanks”.
OK. It might be lowbrow. But if it’s on TV, it most certainly is not on par with the F-bomb (with all respect to Bono and his infamous dropping of it).
And then I DID look it up in the Oxford dictionary, which states:
Wakner: noun Brit. vulgar slang a stupid or contemptible person
If I had to compare it to an American word, I’d say it’s similar to jerk.
I bet if Harper used the word “jerk” the offended brigade would have stayed at home. But then again where does “jerk” come from?
Maybe “jerk-off” which in British English would be “wank”.
So, here’s my point. People were offended by a word that used to mean a stupid or detestable person and is in many ways the American version of “jerk”. I thought Harper used it quite properly.
If The Word Fits You Must Submit
I remember a movie called From the Hip that apparently I was the only one who liked it, starring Jud Nelson. In the movie, Nelson’s a lawyer and he asks his client in court what he thinks of the person suing him.
The guy replies, “He’s an A**ho*e.”
Of course, the judge says that word is not admissible in court. But Nelson counters, “Can you think of any other word that perfectly matches the meaning?”
He judge could not, and the word was admitted (after a hearing over its admissibility, of course),
And this brings me to “wanker”.
In the context of the post, Harper was referring to a specific kind of person. And I thought “wanker” was a pretty proper word to call that kind of person. I could have thought of a bunch of colorful words, actually…but the word fit. Those people that demand your time, never have time for you, and then get angry if you can’t meet them whenever they want…
…what would you call them?
Rather than being offended by a word, it’s sometimes better to examine the context in which the word was used before jumping to conclusions.
**Any of my Aussie or British fans want to chime in on this, I’m more than happy to get schooled on this. Heck, I welcome it. The people offended by “wanker” were all Americans. Just doesn’t make sense to me.**