Is courtesy out of fashion? Is the f-bomb funny?

So, in the fallout from LLB’s Desert Isle Keeper plea for credit, some bloggers and commentors have taken Laurie to task for being, among other things, over-sensitive and proprietorial. It seems they consider worse those who have come to Laurie’s defense, though, especially anyone who suggests that the mean-spiritedness directed at Laurie is something other than hilariously funny.

I’ve noticed, lately, that women, in an effort to have their voices heard, have thought they needed to make their voices just like the men they seem to be attempting to emulate. (Not all men, because most men I know are polite and intelligent.) Or maybe I have it wrong, and to be taken seriously we need to call ourselves bitches, rip apart other women for thinking differently, and drop the f-bomb, because, don’t you know, the f-bomb makes everything funnier and smarter.

It almost seems that they feel you can’t be passionate about anything without being profane or deliberately cruel. It’s not that the f-bomb offends me, it just bores me. It indicates a vacuousness of thought, or a lack of vocabulary.

Meh. I have an overwhelming feeling of ennui over all of that. People who expend self-righteous passion on topics that don’t require it, bore me.

But after reading some of the brouhaha and kerfuffle, I did get to thinking seriously, and asked myself one question; why did I decide to post about Laurie’s battle to get credit for the term Desert Isle Keeper in reference to romance books and reviews of them? I usually stay out of internet squabbles.

  • People have referenced a radio show (?) called Desert Isle Disks, and say that Laurie cannot claim any proprietorship over Desert Isle Keepers because the radio show should have precedence. If Laurie had been reviewing records,I’d probably agree. But really… could the DIK Ladies not come up with something more original when they are, like Laurie and her reviewers, reviewing romance novels, for heaven’s sake? Didn’t they WANT their own identity? It just seemed so… unnecessary.
  • It seems disingenuous to claim a complete lack of knowledge of All About Romance if you have a) been online any length of time and b) have been a reader and/or writer of romance fiction, but the DIK Ladies are apparently claiming to know nothing of DIK’s at AAR. I would have respected their position more if they just said, yes, they were aware, but did not feel Laurie had ownership.
  • I’ve known Laurie for a while, and believe her to be a woman of integrity. If she says she knows that some of the folks at DIK Ladies knew about AAR (and she’s not the only one to say that, BTW) I am inclined to believe her.

Anyway, this is far afield from one thing that seems to be recurring lately to me. Why, oh why, do people seems to think the f-bomb is funny (if they are past eight grade, anyway) or that calling ourselves bitches somehow ennobles us or indicates our strength? And why is tearing each other down somehow more laudable than building each other up or supporting each other? If you support someone that you believe in, in a vocal way, you’re suddenly striking a blow against women’s right to speak up. Well, that’s just silly.

And if you want to speak up about something you disagree with, what is wrong with simply saying, “I disagree, and this is why…”

Courtesy – as in not swearing at each other, not calling each other bitches and not trying to be funny by taking a whack at someone else’s knees – is old-fashioned by implication, since as they have said over and over said at Ann Somerville’s blog and in the comments, those of us who disagree with how Laurie has been treated are ‘clutching at our pearls’. If that’s not an ‘old-fashioned’ image, I don’t know what is.

I dunno… it all leaves me a little sad that dissenting voices are shouted down so stridently, when the ones shouting them down are supposed champions of freedom of speech. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that the ones siding with Laurie at AAR are any more right, if they call the other ‘side’ idiots, but what happened to civility in discourse? When did courteous debate go out of style?

Y’know, maybe what really bugs me is that swear words, sarcasm and anger used to hold weight. They were tools saved for moments of anger or great trauma, and had meaning. Now people seem intent on diluting them so that they have no weight, no heft, like a rock that has the weight of a feather. Just try throwing a feather at someone!

In the end, I guess we all have our ‘home’ on the internet, places we feel comfortable. I suppose I like AAR sooo much, because there I find a) courteous debate. Even the Wild, Wild West MB rarely gets vicious b) the most intelligent posters on the internet with a variety of opinions. I’ve learned more from them about history, politics and romance fiction than any other place on the internet… or off of it, come to think of it.

See also:

Flick-Off campaign.

Knorr f*&#n food campaign

What do you think?


Filed under Online, Stuff & Nonsense

13 responses to “Is courtesy out of fashion? Is the f-bomb funny?

  1. Robin

    Out of 180-some comments on Dear Author, how many do you think were “mean spirited”? And how do you think that ratio compares to the the AAR thread?

    I cannot deny that I believe there’s a double standard at work here, where AAR posters feel absolute moral authority to say anything and everything about how horrible the bloggers are, and yet I cannot bring any comments on DA to mind that similarly trashed AAR posters. Many of us commented extensively on the appreciation we have had for AAR, its prominence in the Romance community, and its secure place for all time as making an important contribution to online discussion of the genre. I can’t remember the last time someone on AAR acknowledged blogs in a similarly respectful way.

    You feel that dissenting voices are “shouted down,” but I am starting to feel that discussions are being condensed to a few extreme posts, with strong and/or blunt voices being conflated with strident ones. And I find it deeply ironic that some of the folks on AAR who have been extremely assertive (putting the “nice” spin on it) on that board are calling certain bloggers “bullies.” I will note Jane’s response to Jane J.’s comments as an example of how distorted I find that claim.

    Obviously to some degree this comes down to whatever community one feels comfortable in and how each of us are going to see those havens in a more understanding and positive way than others might. That’s obviously going on in all the different venues, and it might be unresolvable. But I won’t accept the idea that disagreeing with Laurie, finding her claims problematic and her approach a bit offensive in itself, is tantamount to a mutiny from civility.

  2. Laurie WI

    I haven’t spent much time on the AAR boards, though I lurked there for a while a few years back, and I’ve mostly stopped checking out the reviews, just because I read a lot less romance these days, but I can tell you that I mentioned the AAR site recently to my friends list at livejournal and no one there had ever heard of the site before. They are all well-read women and men, very internet-savvy, and many of them are avid readers of romance. I was genuinely surprised by that. But I guess if I hadn’t been searching for a review of a particular book one day, maybe I never would have heard of it, either.

    The internet is just a big place, I guess. There have been other sites that I’ve thought everyone MUST already know about and it’s turned out that I was just dead wrong.

    I’m not saying that everyone at the DIK Ladies site was unfamiliar with AAR. I have no idea. But, based on my recent experience, it certainly is possible that some of them were.

    I can sympathize with Laurie’s plight to a certain extent, but she just…doesn’t own the phrase, and I think she would have been better off letting it go. She’s certainly doing herself and the site no favors, in my eyes.

  3. Robin, I suppose what left a bad taste in my mouth was the end of the DA blog, the gratuitous “Btw (tm unknown), I checked and both and were domains available for sale. And I bought them.” It had the feel of a ‘nyah-nyah-nyah’ schoolyard taunt.

    If it’s true that she bought the dot coms, that’s just sad, and if it’s not, it’s like a raspberry in Laurie’s face. It’s not clever, it’s just… sad.

    Over at Ann Somerville’s blog, people who supported Laurie were mocked for ‘clutching their pearls’ and ‘wailing’. (Can’t find the reference right now.) I found that an oddly feminine insult, and couldn’t figure it out. Would you say that about a man who spoke up in support of someone? Just… weird. It was clearly meant to reference ‘out-of-touch’ females, it seemed to me.

    But you’re right; most of the commentors at DA had reasonable posts. But a some ridiculed Laurie for expressing her feelings, and said that she was narcissistic for standing up for what she believed was her right to credit for creating the DIK rating system for romance novels.

    Whether she is right or wrong, isn’t that what we’re supposed to do as women, stand up for what we want and think and believe passionately? You can disagree with her all you want, but don’t ridicule her for taking a stand. Many of the commentors supported that, actually.

    The wider context, my blog (written not too coherently, it seems to me, because it was at the end of a loooong writing day) was meant to express my feeling that cutting edge wit is so often equated with profanity (Not at DA, I certainly didn’t mean that) when so often it just seems to be dreary f-bomb dropping. That had nothing to do with DA, of course.

    I’m not sure I expressed my ideas in any coherent fashion; my own new rule is… don’t blog after a mind-numbing day of writing! LOL. I think there are actually two separate topics in the blog that I tried to meld into one, unsuccessfully.

    My own advice to Laurie has been to step back and let it go. But I just hope she doesn’t let go too much, because I so appreciate the civility and intelligence at AAR, and I haven’t found too many places on the ‘net that satisfy those criteria.

    Thanks for your comment, Robin!

    Laurie WI, I appreciate your comments. The internet is certainly a big place, but other readers with no axe to grind have said that they recognize some of the DIK Ladies from AAR, so at least some of them knew what they were doing. I don’t know if Laurie is right or wrong, but a courtesy nod would not have hurt anyone.

  4. logophilos

    Over at Ann Somerville’s blog, people who supported Laurie were mocked for ‘clutching their pearls’ and ‘wailing’. (Can’t find the reference right now.)

    I said nothing of the sort, and a quick reread of the post you linked to would have proved that. The only reference to ‘clutching at pearls’ and ‘wailing’ was about Tess Gerritsen on an entirely different – and if you ask me, much more serious – matter entirely.

    I only said about this DIK business:
    “Even Jane Litte, a far more polite and clever person than me, was attacked for her witty parody of silly ‘copyright’ claims, because she might hurt someone’s feelings.”

    Do I believe Laurie is making a mountain out of an anthill? Yes. Do I agree with Jane? Yes, yes, yes. But please do not attribute words and sentiments to me I have not said or expressed. I don’t know how you found my post, and I take exception to being singled out when I didn’t even participate in the DA discussion. I’d never heard of AAR before, and I have to say, now I have and seen the behaviour of its members, I would want nothing to do with it.

    As for swearing, well, I think using ‘f-bomb’ instead of the proper Anglo-saxon is akin to women who refer to their vaginas as ‘vayjayjay’. It assumes the audience is composed of children, and I am heartily sick of being lectured as if I am a child.

  5. Actually, I would never have found your post if it was not on the DA thread. Perhaps your linking to it showed up there as a permalink in the ‘comments’ section?

    My sincere apologies for taking your words out of context. I must say, though, I’ve never said, ‘vajayjay’ in my life. I doubt I ever will, unless I’m putting the word in the mouth of a character I’m creating.

    On the other hand, just because a word is old or Anglo Saxon, doesn’t make it appropriate for everyday use, in my opinion. ‘Cunt’ is another old English word that I don’t use.

    I suppose part of my point was – and as I admit, after a long day my thought processes were muddled, and I probably shouldn’t have blogged – is that words that should have weight and heft, like ‘fuck’, have lost it, along with any sense of meaning. Three-year-olds use it now. It’s not shocking, or smart or edgy, as bloggers seem to mean it, (?) it’s just… there.

    I’m truly sorry if your career has been threatened for speaking your mind. That is just a sorry state of affairs. But I certainly was not lecturing you like you were a child.

    Interesting commentary!

  6. logophilos

    Three-year-olds use it now. It’s not shocking, or smart or edgy, as bloggers seem to mean it, (?) it’s just… there.

    Then if it’s so mundane and powerless, why do people get so upset about it?

    I swear. My parents swore. My characters swear. I use swear for emphasis, to express extreme frustration or approval. What I refuse to do is pretend that I’m *not* using a curse word. So to me, using ‘f-bomb’ or ‘fricking’ or ‘freaking’ for ‘fuck’, is being cutesy and trying to have it both ways.

    We’re all adults. If someone says ‘fricking’ you know what they’re not saying. All it’s doing is mangling the language in some misguided attempt to protect the ears of people who are well old enough to not need it (which is what I mean about it treating people as children – not as you portrayed it over at Romancing the Blog.)

    Fuck and cunt and shit all do still have weight and power, and I assure you, I use them with intent. If that offends some people, then that might also, depending on circumstance, be my intent. I’m not walking through my life or speaking up with the aim of letting people extend their comfort zone through my personal space. Funny how the ‘polite’ mavins seem to think it’s just fine to enforce their views on others, but those of us who believe it’s better to call a spade a spade, are reviled for asking for more direct speech.

    There are no laws about how we must express ourselves, so why should one group push their views onto another with the force of moral right?

  7. JM

    You mustn’t have been around AAR when it was fashionable to mock authors and dissenters. This was before they changed to their current forum format. The long, long, LONG posts by screaming posters (among a few sane ones) put the Blogosphere Dramatics to shame. No, I just find it funny that AAR now is crying the line that people and some authors used to say about them, that those who bring up controversial topics about them are just “bullies” or “mean girls.”

  8. logophilos…

    Well, my point is, it doesn’t shock me because it just seems that everyone uses them now. Do they still hold shock value for some people? I suppose, but I don’t imagine those are the same people who read blogs or fiction that sprinkle the words around with abandon. How would that be possible? Repeated usage MUST dull the reaction.

    I have used the words in fiction, because they suit certain characters. I’ve used swear words in my everyday life, but not routinely. I save them for extreme provocation, and people know me well enough to be truly shocked when I do use them, and it is a perfect barometer of my mood, my level of anger or revulsion.

    Let’s take the word ‘shit’, which you mentioned. I think it was shocking at one time, but it’s used with such regularity now that I can’t believe you even included it in the list of words you use to shock people. At least in Canada, Carlin’s ‘7 words you can’t say on TV’ are down to 4, 3 if it’s late night TV. I certainly never advocated banning the words, just a plea for moderation in their use?

    To me, swear words are like a pungent spice; if you throw it in everything, then it dulls the palate and you don’t taste anything.

    I suppose we’ll agree to disagree on this issue, and that’s the beauty of civility on the ‘net! We can have this discussion with no ill feelings on either side.


    No, I’ve been visiting AAR for a long time. I do remember some of the long diatribes. Not fun. I guess someone will always be called the ‘mean girls’.

  9. Robin

    I suppose what left a bad taste in my mouth was the end of the DA blog, the gratuitous “Btw (tm unknown), I checked and both and were domains available for sale. And I bought them.” It had the feel of a ‘nyah-nyah-nyah’ schoolyard taunt.

    Well, I don’t think anyone could seriously argue that the sentence isn’t snarky — and we all have our personal tolerances around what is and isn’t harsh in that language. But I read it a bit differently than you did. I read it as a frustrated assertion that Laurie had done nothing to protect a claim she is now forwarding (i.e. “ownership” in the DIK terminology) and asking others to sponsor.

    I think this may boil down to a difference between people who are versed in the law and people who aren’t, because there is a definitely paradigm shift that occurs when you become immersed in the law.

    For many people, the ownership concept Laurie is arguing for seems of little import, but I think it’s really important and important to discuss (and in my case to object to). By invoking trademark and copyright terms (regardless of whether they apply and/or are used correctly), IMO Laurie is trying to push for a substantive ownership interest in the DIK term, an interest that may not *technically* be afforded legal protection, but should *almost* get that kind of protection. How? Through the shaming of those bloggers who dared to use the DIK for their blog. Through community pressure on them to give Laurie back what she sees as rightfully hers. And you know what? That disturbs me quite a bit, and I think it affected Jane in a similar way, thus her little parody (which, as I said elsewhere, struck me as a parody of the *ownership concept* not of Laurie, but YMMV).

    It bothered me because a) people didn’t seem to recognize the importance of having someone invoking legal arguments to support their point, because b) I saw a nightmare scenario opening up for bloggers and commenters everywhere, and because c) Laurie combined those ownership issues with numerous implications that what the DIK Ladies did was without “fairness and justice,” that it was not “kosher,” that it was against Laurie’s “journalistic standards,” that the bloggers failed in a “duty” to check up on the name — in short with charges of intellectual dishonesty. Which brought the issue right into the vicinity of plagiarism and infringement of intellectual property rights. Now I wrote a column recently on why I think the comparison is false (, so I’ll spare you that here, but suffice it to say that I think the comparison is unfair, even dangerous.

    And I think Laurie’s position is both untenable and even somewhat dangerous if not questioned. It may not seem like a big deal for those who are primarily loyal to AAR to think that the DIK bloggers should “acknowledge” Laurie, somehow. But what if this wasn’t AAR. What if some random blogger started a campaign claiming that she invented HEA and wanted every other website or blog to cede “historical ownership” to her? She had Google results, she had followers who swore up and down that it all started with her. Would that seem so reasonable, so simply a matter of politeness or courtesy? Wouldn’t everyone else be arguing that the HEA phrase is public, that it’s an accepted part of the genre vocabulary (well, until Disney stepped in and sued for increased copyright protection by claiming the term themselves, lol).

    IMO the DIK bloggers were in a difficult position, because to cede to Laurie’s request for recognition they risked letting her believe that she had ownership of the DIK, and if *they* didn’t believe that, well, that would be problematic, IMO. To me, anyway, this wasn’t an issue of legitimate ownership or an ethical breach. At most it was an issue of politeness (and arguable on that basis), but Laurie didn’t present it that way at all. I think she’s very serious about her “historical ownership” concept, and I notice that she hasn’t commented in response to the DIK blogger’s tip of the hat to her on their blog last week.

    Back, though (Finally!) to your point about how that sentence of Jane’s bothered you, I can see how it might have played to you the way it did, and I would have understood that better if you had talked about it in your initial post. I know it can be intimidating to call out specific examples to make one’s points, but without the specifics, how can we discuss the general point? I’ve seen more people, lately, be convinced that they are implicated in someone else’s blog post, when the poster didn’t even have the other person in their sites, lol, and that kind of thing can lead to the very conflict that *wasn’t* intended to begin with.

    Also, as you said, there were many different comments and voices in that DA thread, some very reasonable ones, IMO. I know it’s easy to have something stand out and collapse the whole into that one thing, and we all do it to some extent. But in aid of greater courtesy, maybe that’s part of what’s inhibiting us from achieving it?

  10. Robin,

    Thank you for your reasoned and measured response.

    The whole brouhaha has certainly made me think about ‘net ownership, courtesy on the ‘net, the ‘mean girl’ appellation, among other things. And thinking more deeply can never be a bad thing, true? 😉

    I’m still of two minds on it all – an uncomfortable state of being – but being an author who has had to come to terms with some cruel reviews, etcetera, – I have never asked to take a review off simply because it was derogatory – I have a considerably thick skin, and perhaps Laurie’s needs to be thicker, and after this many years on the ‘net it perhaps should be. I can’t speak to that.

    In truth, I have no opinion on the legal aspects. If I had been one of the DIK Ladies I would have suggested another blog name, but I don’t feel there is any legal issue. I think Laurie needs to let go, for her own sake, and for AAR’s sake.

  11. Robin

    And thinking more deeply can never be a bad thing, true? 😉

    Not IMO, lol.

    I’m still of two minds on it all – an uncomfortable state of being – but being an author who has had to come to terms with some cruel reviews, etcetera, – I have never asked to take a review off simply because it was derogatory – I have a considerably thick skin, and perhaps Laurie’s needs to be thicker, and after this many years on the ‘net it perhaps should be.

    I don’t think we’re ever going to arrive at a level of homeostasis that makes everyone feel comfortable, but I do think that we can all learn to be honest and reasonable at the same time, and that lots of practice is essential. That it’s more debate, not less, that will get us there, even if things sometimes get out of hand along the way.

    In truth, I have no opinion on the legal aspects.

    I don’t think it’s necessary to have an opinion on them or even a deep understanding of them. I’m more focused on on the general concept of “ownership” Laurie is advocating, which is IMO the essential issue here and really worthy of discussion. So thanks for letting some of that happen here!

  12. I’m with you on the use of 4-letter words, Donna. I think it’s crass, lazy, or attention-seeking in the guise of “telling it like it is.” I can’t say I never swear, but I will admit that when I do, it’s because I’m being 1) crass, 2) lazy, 3) attention-seeking or 4) shocking for effect.

    Honestly, most of the time swearing just sounds angry. And there are other things I’d rather hear than angry.

  13. Rachel,

    That’s what I don’t get; why is ‘telling it like it is’ so often accompanied by profanity? We can be honest and blunt without swearing. And I don’t think swear words make anything more mature or adult.

    Also, I’m not apologizing for using placewords instead of swear words. I know some people who swear even when they don’t realize it, just because the words have no meaning to them anymore. Sadly, they don’t realize they’re offending people when they’re not even aware of it, because not every audience appreciates that language. And before anyone reacts, I know that’s different than using profanity in a blog or book when you are using the words deliberately.

    And I just do not agree that saying ‘f-bomb’ or using ‘freaking’ or ‘fricking’ is cutesy, talking down, childish or anything else. To each his own, and both POV’s are valid. It is truly a personal thing.

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