Monday, August 31, 2009

Sully's Soapbox: Retard Edition

An article from the Calgary Sun was riding high on Digg this evening, so I thought I’d give it a read. The poster uncharitably posted the link under the heading ‘Resurgence in ‘retard’ angers idiots’, but the article itself was an open lament on how the word ‘retard’ has apparently made a comeback, much to the indignation of writer Michael Platt.

If you’ve got time for it, I recommend you read the article yourself – it’s short, because Platt doesn’t have anything particularly intelligent to say, and he does such a good job of undermining his own argument that you’ll feel more confused than enlightened as to what the point of the exercise was.

Platt opens his article by talking about his days as a naïve, overly sensitive child, who felt the need to stick up for his best friend’s little brother who had a speech impediment:

“With youthful indignation, I made it my mission to tell anyone who'd listen that the word retard was offensive -- what was once a medical term had taken on a hateful connotation, and it was hurtful to good people, like my friend's little brother.“

His central thesis is that the word ‘retard’ is as bad as the ‘n-word’ [“or maybe worse”!], but despite using the ‘r-word’ 14 times without a hint of irony, the word ‘nigger’ doesn’t appear once in the article. Its omission is so flagrant that the article fails to make any impact whatsoever.

Using "retard" to describe someone with a disability is like using the N-word to describe someone with dark skin -- or maybe worse, because those with disabilities can't always defend themselves.

Platt harks back to an entirely imaginary heyday, achieved through years of progress from his language-Gestapo admonishing slips of the tongue, when the word ‘retard’ was never uttered. It’s possible that Platt simply had no social interaction over these few years on account of his penchant for admonishing his friends, but I’m sure the reader will agree that this era he speaks of never happened.

Fast forward to 2009 and we're back at square one.
The R-word has returned with a vengeance, and a day doesn't pass without "retard" being uttered on the radio, on television, and by newsroom colleagues, usually to describe something or someone idiotic.
Whether it's a bad movie, a butter-fingered football play, or just someone acting the fool, "retarded" is once again the adjective of choice.

In an attempt to show off what a good amateur-linguist he is, Pratt reflects on other trends he’s pulled out of his ass:

“Maybe it's a verbal trend that will quickly wither and die, the way "it's all good," and "bling" have rotted away from daily conversation, to the relief of all.”

To investigate this notion, I consulted Twitter:

Damn fools! Don’t they know that ‘it’s all good’ and ‘bling’ are no longer permitted in conversation, by order of Michael Platt, locution tsar?

As part of his hard-hitting exposé on the shocking rise of hate-speech in Western society, Platt solicits quotes from someone who could nearly sound sensible had the story been written by someone else, and who must surely put up with an awful lot of retards: Carmen Wyton: president and CEO of Special Olympics Alberta.

"Language goes through changes, and the trend right now has the R-word very high [...] It's being used in place of 'silly' or 'ridiculous,' and I think if people really thought about what the word means, they would stop using it."

“Wyton says the word is found in the lyrics of many modern songs, stemming back to the Black Eyed Peas' 2003 hit, Let's Get Retarded.”

Many modern songs’? Yet he only mentions one! One that was hastily changed to ‘let’s get it started’ to appease the political-correct retards that inhabit this world.

Besides making mountains out of molehills, let get on with the part that rips the heart out of this entire masturbatory sermon of self-righteousness, which is paraphrased rather than quoted:

“[Wyton] thinks pop culture has convinced a new generation that the R-word word is hip, not hateful.”

A-freakin’ men! "Hip - not hateful!" Language is not static or rigid – words take on different meaning; once innocuous words can become negatively charged, and vice-versa. Making people afraid of uttering a word in polite company is what gives it power, so this dude should be imploring us to throw ‘retard’ about with wanton abandon, so that everyone and everything is retarded, thus putting everyone on an equal footing, restoring civility to society and bringing about the utopia that has remained just beyond our grasp for these past few millennia.

Regardless of how powerful a word is at expressing something – it shouldn’t matter unless that negative charge is directed towards something. Words like ‘retard’ or ‘nigger’ can be discussed objectively without avoiding their use – cowering behind ‘the n-word’ is a cumbersome way of capitulating to the moronic notion propagated by politically correct nitwits who maintain that words themselves have magic powers.

Let’s get hypothetical for a moment – if every single person in the world agreed to absolutely remove ‘retard’ and its derivatives from their lexicon, the concept would still exist, but people would still be impaired, both physically and mentally, meaning that one of the PC terms would have to be used until it spills over to describe things that are “ridiculous or stupid”, leading to some cretin taking issue with that word, so we have to spin the wheel-of-euphemism again and see what comes up this time.

Friday, August 28, 2009

"Everyone's opinion is equally valid - my arse!"

As long as I've had access to the internet, it's been my primary source of news and entertainment - this has been especially true over the past five years, since I've had regular broadband access.

As most big sites on the world wide web tend to have a US-bias, (and Ireland has been dragging its heels with regards to the internet until the last two years or so) it means that I've little concept of Irish TV shows, and even less knowledge of Irish celebrities, so despite the innumerable occasions my friends recommended I watch 'The Panel', I seldom did as I'd rarely be in front of the TV.

I'd like to take this opportunity to openly lament my folly in wasting every opportunity I had to watch The Panel, but never did, and that reason is Dara O'Brian. While I've always been aware of the man, I had little idea of what he was about until he impressed me with his wit during a radio interview some months back.

I finally got around to YouTubing his material a few days ago, and realised that an intelligent, sceptical mind was appearing weekly on one of Ireland's most popular current affairs/comedy shows, and I ignored it entirely.

Watch him riff on religious irrationality:

Watch him jeer at two of my favourite pet peeves: homeopathy & nutritionists:

So will I start paying attention to Irish celebrities now? Probably not - like anyone with any talent from Ireland, Dara has buggered off to some other country to earn himself a real living (see also: Bob Geldoff, Colin Farrell, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, U2), thus elevating him to the status of 'A British Celebrity from Ireland'. The lucky git.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Language Barrier

Due to the asynchronous nature in which mine and my beloved’s day unfolds, the conversations we have at the end of the day generally start with her asking how my day was, and me asking her how her afternoon is shaping up. I found the following recollected exchange funny, and since I’ve sweet feck all else to blog about, figured it was worth sharing.

Ladyfriend: So what did you get up to today?

Myself: I went for lunch with British Cousin Joe!

Ladyfriend: Sounds exciting! How was it?

Myself: It was great! He taught me some new British slang!

Ladyfriend: And what was this new British slang?

Myself: I’m glad you asked. He taught me the word ‘mardy’.

Ladyfriend: 'Murdy'?

Myself: No - 'Mardy'. M-A-R-D-Y. Like 'mardi-gras'.

Ladyfriend: Okay. So what does it mean?

Myself: I’m glad you asked! It’s essentially another word for ‘stroppy’.

Ladyfriend: And what does ‘stroppy’ mean?

Myself: You don’t know what stroppy means?

Ladyfriend: No I don’t know what ‘stroppy’ means – why should I?

Myself: You’ve heard me use it!

Ladyfriend: Are you sure?

Myself: Definitely! And its derivatives – remember I told you about the customer that was ‘throwing a stropper’ at work?

Ladyfriend: Just because you’ve used it before doesn’t make it a real word.

Myself: Sure it is! Look it up.

Ladyfriend: It’s not in the dictionary.

Myself: Nonsense! I’ll look it up myself...

Myself: Oh....

Ladyfriend: Not a word?

Myself: Apparently not.

Ladyfriend: Can't win 'em all, sweetie.

Myself: But... It's in books! I've read it in books!

Ladyfriend: Are you going to tell me what this word means or not?

Myself: Now now - don't go getting all mardy over this, sweetheart.

Y'know what? In retrospect, I suppose this is one of those 'had to be there' stories.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Harvey Norman - Baiting & Switching?

I've talked about Harvey Norman before on this blog for committing lesser, apostrophe-related crimes, but my most recent visit to the local electrical superstore warrants another rebuking.

In what passes in my family as a rite-of-passage, I accompanied my younger brother to purchase a decent TV for his house in college, making sure to wear my hagglin' pants. After explaining the merits of HDTV standards, (Plasma vs LCD, Full HD vs HD Ready), we agreed on a specification of a 720P, 32", LCD TV, and he was willing to spend up to €500.

We started at Finucane's Electrical in Eastway Business Park, and identified a decent Samsung model for €600 that the pleasant salesman offered for €550. We said we'd look elsewhere before committing to it.

The next stop was Harvey Norman - they had all the 32" LCDs arranged in a row, making the job of picking out the best one a doddle - we instantly singled out the Philips 32PFL5404H as being the best on display, but the €600 asking price seemed a bit much.

The salesman who approached us was an older gentleman, who seemed to begrudge every comment I made. He tried to usher us towards the Full HD TVs, but I told my brother that the difference was barely distinguishable when using a 32" screen.

He spluttered and wheezed as he admonished my foolishness - "there's a world of difference between Full HD and HD Ready - over 2 megapixels..."[bullshit alarm went off here] he trailed off, possibly looking for more technical words to scare me off with.

I told him that I meant that the difference between 1080P and 720P would be scarcely discernible when dealing with smaller TVs - again he flared up to reproach this upstart who dares question the authority of The Television Salesman.

"No, no, no, no, no. It's 2 megapixels of difference!" He pointed deliberately at 2 TVs. "Look at the colours! Compare the brightness!"

Both TVs were 720P. He succeeded in convincing me that he knew less than I did about the technical stuff, but I wanted to see how useful he'd be about the price-tag.

"How good can you do on that Philips TV?"


"C'mon - that's what the price tag says - you can do a hell of a lot better than that"


"If you give it to us for €500 we'll take it home right now."

"No way - the best I can do is €570"

"€570? I saw it for much cheaper online"

"We don't compete with online."

"That's fine - if you won't compete with them I'll just get it online."

"Don't get it online. They won't look after you. What happens if it arrives broken in the box, then what?"

"You're telling me that you can't do any better than €570?"

He was visibly vexed, I thought I was getting somewhere.

"You're telling me that if I get a better price for this anywhere else, there's no point in coming back to you, because €570 is the absolute best you can do?"

The words hung in the air for a second, then the cogs started turning again:

"Nobody will compete with online. They don't pay taxes. They won't look after you."

"I'm not talking about online - I just want to know if I should come back to you if - say, Clancy's offer me a better deal."

"€570 is the best deal you're going to get in a real shop."

I thanked him for his time, and said we'd be back for it if we couldn't do any better.

I wrote down the model number and called Clancy's Electrical while still standing in Harvey Norman.

"Do you have a Philips 32PFL5404H in stock?"

"Yeah - it's going for €499"

"Could you make it €450?"

"Ummm... Sure."

It took one phonecall to knock €150 off the Harvey Norman price - we went and picked it up, and after we had the transaction completed, I told the (awfully nice) bloke that got it for us that Harvey Norman were looking for €150 more.

"Don't get me started on them - we dropped the price to €499 because we saw they advertised that TV for €449 - it's not the first time I've heard about something like this"

I took his comment with a grain of salt - but once I got home and opened the Limerick Leader, I couldn't help but notice the Harvey Norman ad pushing their big Sale event:

That TV for €449 looks familiar...

The model number listed underneath that TV? 32PFL5404H. The one that had a €600 price tag, and which was guarded by a surly internet-phobe who blatantly misleads customers with his non-expertise, while telling them that €120 more than the advertised price is the best deal they'll get in 'a real shop'.

Let's just consult the criteria by which Harvey Norman reckon they're top dogs:

Price: Beaten. Trounced, even.
Range: Matched.
Service: Beaten. Beaten to a bloody, surly pulp.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Flim Flam flew away

The high frequency of which I avail of air-travel, coupled with my often shoddy memory has caused many casualties. My exploits in 2006 left a trail of odd socks and underpants across the east coast of the United States, and I cannot state with any certainty which continent my limited-edition/collector's item Half Life 2 shirt last lay on (which still keeps me up at night, even 3 years since I last squeezed on the ill-fitting garment).


The most recent possession that I can declare 'lost' is a book called "Flim Flam" by James Randi, which I left in the seat-back in front of me while disembarking Continental Flight 30091 on July 30th 2009. Despite being a good deal more replaceable than any other item of mine to disappear into the void, I felt bereft at the ill-fitting end such a phenomenally good book received.

I took some semblance of solace in thinking that maybe some other person would pick up the book and discover the genius of James Randi, or indeed, the fun to be had in critical thinking, but I despair to think that such thinking puts me on the same philosophical foothold (albeit briefly) with the same loons who put Jesus-propaganda in Hallowe'en bags.

The good news is that I can buy the book again, further increasing the demand for books of a skeptical nature! (Huzzah?)