Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Moral Judgement v. Social Breach

Thought du jour
I step over to his table and give him a medium hello, and he looks up and gives me a medium hello right back, for, to tell the truth, Maury and I are never bosom friends.
– Damon Runyon

From today's Social Studies (Globe and Mail):

Our inappropriate age

“No words are more typical of our moral culture than ‘inappropriate' and ‘unacceptable,'” Edward Skidelsky writes for Prospect magazine. “They seem bland, gentle even, yet they carry the full force of official power. When you hear them, you feel that you are being tied up with little pieces of soft string. Inappropriate and unacceptable began their modern careers in the 1980s as part of the jargon of political correctness. They have more or less replaced a number of older, more exact terms: coarse, tactless, vulgar, lewd. They encompass most of what would formerly have been called ‘improper' or ‘indecent.' An affair between a teacher and a pupil that was once improper is now inappropriate; a once indecent joke is now unacceptable. This linguistic shift is revealing. Improper and indecent express moral judgments, whereas inappropriate and unacceptable suggest breaches of some purely social or professional convention. … Calling your action indecent appeals to you as a human being; calling it inappropriate asserts official power.”

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