Anti-swearing law

Simon,Beth Simon at IPFW.EDU
Mon Feb 21 21:23:52 UTC 2000

Dear ADS-L folks,

While I hate to admit to having become addicted (as in calling around frantically
for someone to tape it if I miss it) to a television show, I am to the _The West
Wing_. Last week's episode (on cap. punishment) spent the entire hour on the
intersection of semantic, pragmatic and sociolinguistic differences in "thou
shalt not kill" vs "thou shalt not commit murder" and, concommitantly, in the
meanings of "justice" and "vengeance."  E.g., four times in an hour, 3 different
characters said the line "Vengeance is not Jewish".

Also interesting, given our earlier discussion of the meaning of "christian" (I
mentioned then that I grew up in a Jewish household that used the term
"christian" to mean "protestant" and "catholic" to mean, not protestant) is that
for the _West Wing_ episode in question, the salient, named groups  were Jews,
Catholics and non-Catholics.

beth simon, ph.d.
assistant professor, linguistics and english
indiana university purdue university

RonButters at AOL.COM wrote:

> In a message dated 2/21/2000 8:10:27 AM, dsawczak at GAGELEARNING.COM writes:
> << How does this huge and laughable
> myth, that the poor secular majority is being
> oppressed by a handful of religious people, rather
> than the reverse, survive? >>
> I hesitate to answer this at all, because it is so angry in tone and wanders
> so very far away from what ADS-L is supposed to be about, i.e., language.
> This sort of outburst is uncharacteristic of the discussions that we have
> here, and I'm going to hope that what I say will be calming, not incendiary.
> And I will try to keep my focus on language-and-society.
> It seems to me that the question that <dsawczak> asks severely misinterprets
> the sociolinguistics of Anne's answer. I think that we all agree that most of
> the people who strongly advocate the posting of "the ten commandments" share
> a common core of religious beliefs. I agree that Anne's characterization of
> those beliefs as "very narrow" may seem like invidious "stereotyping," but I
> don't think the purpose of her comments was to put people down, but rather to
> attempt to explain why only certain translations would satisfy the very
> people who are advocates of the posting. As far as I can see, her
> sociolinguistic observation is surely correct: wouldn't posting even of a
> Catholic Bible translation be difficult for people to accept whose very use
> of the word "Christian" excludes Catholics, Mormons, and, indeed (for many)
> those whose specific religious beliefs disagree with theirs? For me,
> <dsawczak>'s "you can still easily recognize all the commandments [in all the
> translations]" may well ignore some really significant doctrinal decisions
> that a translator must make (e.g., compare "Thou shall not kill" with "Do not
> commit murder"--the former seeming to possibly forbid capital punishment, the
> latter not). But even if there were no significant semantic differences, the
> political issues are significant, e.g., the King James version might seem to
> many Jews to be particularly exclusionary.
> As for <dsawczak>'s question itself, it does illustrate the role of rhetoric
> in language. Anne certainly does not say that "the poor secular majority is
> being oppressed by a handful of religious people" (that sarcastic "poor" is
> very telling). I am not a religious person myself, and I think of myself as
> an old-fashioned liberal in most ways, but I don't for a moment believe
> anything so simplistic. I do believe that the influence of "religion" in
> government can be oppressive (e.g., in the preservation of sodomy laws), but
> this is just a manifestation of a much larger tendency of people--religious
> or not--to attempt to project their own beliefs into the public sphere.
> I thank <dsawczak> for reminding us that we need to be careful not to seem
> exclusionary in our postings. There are many people of faith who are regular
> readers and writers, and the faiths are various and sundry. One thing that we
> might all agree on (excuse the translation if it is not the one that you
> prefer) is that a gentle answer turneth away scorn.

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