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Saturday, September 21, 2019

Here’s Why Profanity Will Always Be Used

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Have you ever noticed many curses or profane words are four letters long?

Think about it.  What quickly comes to mind?  

Forgive my vulgarity, but this is a post about language and we can’t be afraid to use real words.  Keep in mind they are all in the dictionary.  If you guessed fuck, cock, tits, twat, shit, or cunt among others, you scored well.

So what spurred our unfamily-like discussion here?  Well.  I just read an insightful, provocative, and powerful book.  What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, And Ourselves, penned by Benjamin K. Bergen (Basic Books).

The history behind profanity extends back to the beginnings of language.  It’s only natural that we have words that offend us, because words reflect actions, feelings, and ideas – and some will annoy, threaten, anger, or entertain us to different degrees.  Comedians view language differently from the clergy and kids speak differently than adults, but language exists for all to use or abuse.

This book attempts to take a deep dive into how and why we use curse words and how attempts to ban them are futile.  It examines the taboos of English, looking at things like a linguist, psychologist, and neuroscientist, all wrapped into one, would.

Our language is under fire by the PC police while at the same time social media allows us unfettered access to spew all kinds of words across the globe, 24/7.

It is amazing how words can trigger certain emotions, ideas, even actions.  We have our fighting words, our terms of endearments, our business speak, our political discourse (except for Trump), our school conversations, and so on.  The right words for the right setting.  Or is that no longer the case?  Should it even be the case?

“Words, in short, have the power by their mere utterance to affect how people feel and how they feel about you,” writes Bergen.  “Being curse-less has consequences.  It affects the things you can do with the language – the work you can do with words.”

His book takes a serious turn when it examines whether words should be banned or how such a thing could actually happen.  He concludes it should not and could not occur – but that doesn’t stop people from trying often giving the hated words even more currency by the users.

Are words really bad in themselves – or is it what a particular word represents that we hate so much?  We can't unthink things, can we?  We can’t cover up history, right?  Why do we try to go through life as if we could live in a perfect world if only we eradicated all bad words?  This just isn’t realistic or even an honest approach to life.

Oddly, the F-word ranked only No. 15 on a large study of most offensive words that was cited in the book.  The N-word was No. 1, followed by the C-word.  Whores tied for No. 10, yet Hooker was No. 31.  So what should we conclude about words that offend?

1.      Most relate to sex -- the act of, sexual organs, sexual preference – clit, slut, screw, dyke.
2.      Many are terms of prejudice – kike, chink, spic.
3.      They seek to put people down – moron, loser, retard.


This means that regardless of what the word is, the intent behind it is to ridicule, demean, express hate, and to shame others.  

No matter what word you fill in the blank, there will always be people saying negative, threatening, ignorant things to another, so to focus on specific words is pointless.  There’s nothing inherently evil above any one word -- only about how it’s applied and the intention of the use behind it.

That said, every single word on the list of offensive words could, under the right circumstance, be acceptable to use, whether it’s used in jest or between friends/lovers who choose to use the words differently than how they are normally employed.  At the very least, for historical or legal purposes, we must use the actual words when discussing events and not seek to sidestep them.  Our language, for better or worse, reflects who we are.  We can’t ban humanity, can we?

Here are some selected excerpts from the book:

Bad Language
“This is a book about bad language.  Not the tepid pseudo-profanities like damn and boobs that punctuate broadcast television.  I mean the big hitters.  Like fuck.... These words are vulgar.  They’re shocking.  They’re offensive.  They’re hurtful.

“But they’re also important.  These are the words people use to express the strongest human emotions – in moments of anger, of fear, and of passion.  They’re the words with the greatest capacity to inflict emotional pain and incite violent disagreement.  They’re the words that provoke the most repressive regulatory reactions from the state in the form of censorship and legislation.  In short, bad words are powerful – emotionally, physiologically, psychologically, and socially.

“And that makes them worth trying to understand.” 

Profanity Defined
“The word profanity originally referred to the first group.  In Latin profanus literally means “outside the temple,” denoting words or acts that desecrate the holy.  For some people, the use of religious words in secular ways constitutes blasphemy – a sin against religious doctrine – and this is the pathway that makes those terms taboo.  The names of religious figures, like Jesus Christ, Jehovah, or Mohammad, are easy fodder.  So are aspects of religious dogma.  In English, we have a few of these, like holy, hell, God, damn, and, of course, Goddamn.”

Profanity -- Origins
“The second place English profanity comes from is language relating to sex and sexual acts.  This includes the acts themselves (fuck, for instance), sex organs involved in those acts (pussy and cock), people who perform those acts (cocksucker and motherfucker), and artifacts and effluvia related to those acts (spooge, dildo, and so on).  So the second prong of our profanity principle is sex.

“Third is language involving other bodily functions – things that come out of your body, the process of getting them out of your body, and the parts of your body that they come out of.  This includes robust cohorts of words describing feces, urine, and vomit, among others, as well, of course, as the body parts associated with these substances and the artifacts used in those body parts; upkeep, like douchebag, and so on.

“And finally there are the slurs.  Among the most offensive words on each of the lists (when the lists saw fit to ask about them) are terms like (N-word), faggot, retard, and the like.  These words are offensive by dint of their derogatory reference to people based on some group that they’re perceived as belonging to, defined in terms of sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, and so on.  New terms like this are developing all the time - relatively recent additions to English include tard (from retard) and sperg (derived from Asperger’s syndrome).”

Is Profanity Universal?
“In what ways are the 7,000 languages of the world similar, and in what ways are they different? Both questions have fascinated linguists and philosophers for millennia, for different reasons.  Universal features found to hold in all languages reveal something about what it is to be human.  If all humans do something – whether it’s art, music, math, or some aspect of language, that universal behavior must be due to either some shared common experience or some trait possessed by all humans, transcending cultural idiosyncrasies.  Perhaps, sometimes, this stems from our genetic endowment.

“There doesn’t appear to be much about profanity that is truly universal – shared without exception by all languages and cultures.  It’s not just that the specific words are different.  As we’ve seen, the differences are much deeper than that.  Some cultures have rich and deeply codified systems of profanity, like English or Russian.  Others, like Japanese, don’t really have anything like the same category of words.”

Taboos
“But trying to ban language is more than just ineffectual.  The practice is actually its own worst enemy.  Here’s what I mean.

“We know that taboo words aren’t taboo because they’re intrinsically bad.  We’ve seen over the course of this book that profane words are just words; they’re made up of sounds and enter into similar (although not always identical) grammatical patterns to other words.  There isn’t a fixed set of profanity in a language – words meander into and out of taboo-ness.  Over time, words move fluidly from banal to profane and back again – think about the histories of cock and swive (the now deceased, archaic predecessor to fuck). Nor is there anything unique or defining about what taboo words mean; even if they tend to draw from certain semantic domains, they can denote the very same things as mundane words  like penis and copulate). And in fact, a culture doesn’t even have to have taboo words if historical vicissitudes haven’t conspired to give it any.  “In other words, there’s nothing deterministic about any particular words having to be profane in any given language at any specific time.

“And that means that our beliefs about profanity are largely a social construct.  The same word can provoke radically different reactions in different cultures or at different times.”


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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2019. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Which Books Should Be Banned?


Image result for banned books images

The tradition of censorship and book bans is one that spans the globe since the early days of publishing.  Unfortunately it continues today, right here in America, where freedom is supposed to ring true for all.  This coming week is Banned Books Week, where the American Library Association shines a light on censorship.  We should all be concerned.

The ALA reported there were at least 530 attempts to ban materials from schools and libraries in the United States last year.  The ALA launched Banned Books Week in 1982 to call attention to the value of free and open access to information and to highlight the dangers and harms caused by censorship.

So why do some books get banned or censored?

The usual suspects:  religion, sex, politics, language, racism, etc. But it seems odd that in an era where more information is more available than ever before, courtesy of the Internet, that our institutions would still try to act as if the world doesn’t exist, as if facts, ideas, and views can just be ignored or blacked out.

History has been unkind to writers, banning their works, killing or jailing them, banishing some, and subjecting them to public scorn and ridicule.  For writers today, especially in some countries, they pay a huge price and take big risks to publish their works.

Many great writers have been deported and banished from their homelands, including:  Aristotle, Dante, Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Ovid, Villon, and Euripides.

American writers who have suffered from book bans include these authors:  Ernest Hemingway, Joseph Heller, J.D. Salinger, Upton Sinclair, Alice Walker, Tennessee Williams, Philip Roth, John Steinbeck, Alfred Kinsey, Thomas Jefferson, James Baldwin, Allen Ginsberg, Arthur Miller, Norman Mailer, and so many others.

Look at just a sampling of thousands of examples of book bans and censorship:

·         Persian poet Amra Taraja was burned alive in 570 AD because he wrote a couplet critical of the king.

·         In 1931, China banned Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland because “animals should not use human language and it is disastrous to put animals and human beings on the same level.”

·         Huckleberry Finn was banned by Concord, MA in 1885 because it was “trash and suitable only for the slums.”

·         The American Heritage Dictionary was banned in 1978 by an Eleden, Missouri library because it contained 39 “objectionable” words.

·         The Brooklyn Public Library banned Huckleberry Finn in 1905 from the Children’s Room because it’s a bad example for youth.

·         Shakespeare’s Richard II had a scene deleted by Queen Elizabeth because she did not like when the King is deposed.  For over 30 years King Lear was forbidden on the English stage, due to King George III’s insanity (1788-1820).

We can go on and on.  Every library, bookstore, school, or church can act as a place where information flows freely or they can become battlegrounds for limiting society’s minds.  There are burdens, obligations, and responsibilities that come with what we publish, but our nation must show tolerance for all books, even those we disagree with.  

We can’t really ban ideas, history, or feelings – can we?

For more information on Banned Books Week, please consult:  www.ALA.org/bbooks.


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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2019. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Interview with Award-Winning Journalist on his WWII Book



80 Years After The Biggest War Started, A New Book By Award-Winning Journalist Reveals
The Hidden Places of World War II


 


Chicago – four decades after the launch of World War II, a new book journeys us to places few have been.

In The Hidden Places of World War II: The Extraordinary Sites Where History Was Made During The War That Saved Civilization (Lyons Press/Rowman & Littlefield), Navy veteran, award-winning journalist, and recognized historian Jerome M. O’Connor takes readers back to the world’s biggest and most significant war, to the overlooked places to describe little-known events where history was made. 

Many of the sites were thought to be closed or locked away forever or believed to never have existed.  Some of the war-changing events described here were ignored for decades by military historians.  With historical and contemporary photos, the book opens the eyes of both a new and older generation of readers, in an exploration of the actual locations that changed history.

O’Connor  (www.historyarticles.com) has had many firsts over the years, as a contributor to the Chicago Tribune, Naval History magazine, British Heritage, and other publications, including being the first to write about Churchill’s secret war rooms in 1977. The U.S. Naval Institute, in 2000, awarded him “Author of the Year,” acknowledging his writings as “significant contributions to the history of World War II.”

The book, which is being promoted by the PR company that I work for,  brings to life the side of the war few have seen. Many military history readers are unaware that all five of the Atlantic Nazi U-boat bunker bases not only exist in nearly their original appearance but can also be visited.  Many of the one-time Army Air Force bases in England, contain parts of runways, crew quarters, chapels, and hangars.  In Nuremberg, Hitler’s vast parade grounds with intact grandstands, half-finished 50,000 capacity congress hall, and even his reviewing podium projecting into the grounds, remain three quarters of a century later.  In London, enter a grand mansion where fifty-nine captured Nazi generals had generous privileges and nearly open access to the house, with every word they spoke being secretly recorded from hidden microphones inside and out.  These are among the many places revealed that were overlooked by history.

O’Connor says: “Secret missions, hidden war rooms, code breakers, and top secret orders.  This book has it all. If you are a history buff, a war veteran, or just a curious student of the most significant time in this nation’s modern history, you will find many items to explore here.”

Here is an engaging Q and A with Mr. O’Connor:


1.      As we approach the75th anniversary of the conclusion of the war that saved humanity, what do you hope new generations will come to know and understand about it? All knew that the war would be fought to the death regardless of the sacrifices and losses ahead.  An unprepared nation joined together to invest vast amounts of money and also confront the loss of thousands of their sons.  There were no doubts about the need and no option except victory.  This generation should know that Americans then knew that they were part of a grand purpose and were equal to the resolve needed.  It was the only time when all Americans had a single objective - the ending of tyranny and restoration of democracy.  Many today either take the war for granted or are unaware that its loss would have ended the forward march of civilization. 

2.      The U.S. Naval Academy declared you its Author of the Year in 2000 for making “significant literary contributions to the history of World War II.”  How would you describe your writing style?” I assume that readers share my inquisitiveness. If others are merely revisiting what is already well known, such as the D Day invasion, I look for the origins of what other writers overlooked.  Thus, the reason for the chapter describing the anxiety faced by General Eisenhower in approving the date of the invasion.  It begins with Ike’s worry over a weather delay, and not on the beaches but in the existing house where he made the decision.   I write as a journalist and storyteller and avoid the use of dense descriptions present in so many works of history.  Sub-heads are included as in a magazine format, and to hint at the section ahead.  In revising copy, I tend to edit down and be simple and direct. Say less to mean more.    

3.      How can we teach history, especially about World War II, in an interesting but meaningful way? Begin by making WW II history more approachable and immediate than it is now, such as informing students that the war was one of the three most important events in American history.  Along with the founding of the country and the Civil War, no other event in American history shaped the world in which they live as students and in which everyone inhabits today.  This recognition will give the war the prominence it deserves in the curriculum.  Currently, it is lacking in importance in the teaching of American and world history.  Also, invite a vet to a class while they are still here.  Only about 3.5% of WW II veterans are still alive, but after decades of silence many are now willing to tell their story.

4.      What are some of the key lessons we should all take away about how nations come together, united against evil?  Consider lessons from the past.  In peace or war nations care about their own self-interests before any others.  Before WW II, European countries and America were divided by world depression, leading to both economic and social instability.  Adding to already unstable conditions was a revulsion against war following the slaughter of millions in World War 1.  This resulted in wholesale disarmament by the leading nations, especially Britain, France, and America.  When Germany began to re-arm the principle governments, including many in the US Congress, sought to appease dictatorship instead of uniting to confront the growing threat.  What emerged from the war, the United Nations and an economic union - the common market or EC - although imperfect, has kept the peace for 75 years.  

5.      Who are some of the unsung heroes that you shed a light upon? In general, the unsung heroes were the nine men in the rear who made it possible for the one man at the front to be equipped to fight, have food, ammo and supplies, and be evacuated if wounded.  I regularly talk to vets who say, ‘I didn’t do much; I only repaired planes or loaded trucks; I didn’t fight.’ Not so; you faithfully served and earned the victory as much as front line troops. Specifically, however, and this is in the book, were entire organizations overlooked by history.  This includes Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, who ferried the aircraft from the manufacturer to the US bases for handing-over to the crews who then flew them into combat.  It took until 1977 for the 1,000 women to be given veteran status and until 2009 for President Obama to award the surviving members the Congressional Gold medal.

6.      What did you term the “decision of the century” in your book?  Why? The success of the European war and the culmination of years of planning came down to decisions made by one man, General Eisenhower.  If he made the easy decision and delayed because of poor weather or landed the troops at easier-to-reach beaches, they could have been defeated at the water’s edge.  That would set back the war by at least 6 months, given the enemy more time to defend against the second invasion, and months more to learn Allied tactics and potentially an even more decisive defeat the next time.   Because Ike had confidence in the plans, equipment and the resolve of his troops, the order to invade on June 6, 1944 became the decision of the century. 

7.      What did you come to discover about the Nazi U-boat Sanctuary? Allied pilots were correct in their repeated assessments after years of bombing that the U-boat bases were indestructible.  They just didn’t know why.  After research and repeated visits to several of the bases, the reason was readily apparent.  The overhead or roof construction was so detailed and so ingenious in a diabolical way, that after seven decades the bases with the full seven-layers and twenty-three feet of protection had no damage.  German engineers had devised a construction process that contained or absorbed explosions, thus preventing penetrating damage to the lower interior parts such as dry and wet docks. 

8.      You have a chapter on the unknown odyssey of the SS America/USS West Point.  Why? Because America was officially neutral, FDR risked impeachment by approving Churchill’s urgent request to lend him seven US flagged ships to transport 20,000 British soldiers to the Far East.  One of the seven ships, the 35,440-ton and nearly new former SS. America, renamed USS West Point, had been the premiere US ocean liner between New York and Southampton.  She not only escaped sinking by the Japanese in Singapore but became the only US troop transport to sail in all war theatres.  Her 151 daring voyages carried over 500,000 troops over 436,000 miles.  Until I researched her heroic missions and to the present day, FDR’s gamble and the USS West Point’s contributions were overlooked in thousands of books about the war.

9.      Secret missions, hidden war rooms, code breakers, top secret orders.  Was the war won not just on power, courage, and strategy, but on the ability to shroud all actions relating to the war effort? Stealth and secrecy shroud every war but never had more meaning than in WW II.  Because the stakes were so high – a restoration of world order or entry into a new Dark Age – vast sums were invested in devising human and mechanized ways of ensuring secrecy.  Germany arrogantly invested its entire future on the presumed infallibility of the Enigma machine.  In turn, Britain launched an all-out effort to break Enigma and then shared the secret with America.  Breaking Enigma saved at least two years of additional fighting, and, before America’s entry, it also saved Britain from certain defeat. The war’s other major secret, the development of the Atomic Bomb, was as closely guarded as the Ultra secret, the breaking of Enigma. 

10.  America saved freedom in its darkest hour back then.  Do we still have what it takes to preserve democracy? Throughout history America’s sons and daughters have risen to the challenge, although to no greater purpose or in numbers than in World War II.  From the Revolutionary War to the current war on terror - the longest war in American history - the special character that is part of the American fabric, somehow produces the men and women who unhesitatingly step forward when needed. Perhaps the wide diversity in our ethnic background leads to an individuality that is needed in combat. The one constant in today’s divided electorate is that those who serve are among America’s greatest resources. 

11.  What is history’s view of President Roosevelt as a war leader? First, it is often overlooked how important FDR’s efforts were in bringing the Nation out of Depression when one in four were out of work.  At the start of the war unemployment was down to 14%.  As a war leader he had to resolve the often competing interests of his military leadership and those of Allied leaders such as Churchill and DeGaulle.  He needed to rally the American people to maintain confidence in themselves and in him.  He made vital military decisions that altered the course of the war and made them without boast or bravado.  He earned the distinction of being the greatest president of the 20th Century, and, along with Washington and Lincoln, one of America’s three greatest presidents. 

12.  Should America have intervened sooner? As is described in the book’s opening parts, America was secretly and deeply involved as FDR sidestepped or openly evaded the Neutrality Act’s requirements in giving aid to Britain.  He knew that America would eventually enter the war, but he also needed time to rearm the country, placate his political opposition, and bring the American people out of isolationism.  He knew long before America entered the war that Britain had to be kept afloat as an unsinkable aircraft carrier, to serve as the staging area for the American forces who would liberate Europe.  The actions FDR took repeatedly to aid Britain were all intended to buy time so that America would be ready.  Against all the odds he succeeded.


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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2019. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.