A friend once told me, “changing language, can’t change society”, where I thought long and hard for my response. Long and hard. Yes, some readers probably thought of something inappropriate, and of course, that’s fine! (Although a little gross). Free speech exists and language is used freely within our own reigns, BUT, does language have a greater impact on our society, more than people think?
Rudy Pantoja, AKA Hugh Mungus knows all too well about choosing the correct language. When asked “What is your name?”, Rudy jokingly responded “Hugh…Hugh Mungus”. Watch the video to find out what happens next.
In Rudy’s case, it’s all too obvious that there was a misinterpretation of the joke. I think from the video we can tell that there was no sexual intention with his words, and that the situtation had spiraled out of control. With that being said, would the situation have been different if the language Rudy used was different? It’s a little over the top to call Rudy a sexual harasser because of a ‘dad-joke’, but there is evidence to suggest that these jokes or banter are actually a cover up for a much darker intention.
Obvioulsy the Hugh Mungus joke was just that. A joke. Nevertheless, Rudy may have broken some language rules. According to Paul Grice (1975), language was catergorised into 4 rules of language, in which if followed, conversation would flow easy and flaw free. He labelled these as ‘Maxims’ and catergorised them;
- The maxim of quantity, where one tries to be as informative as one possibly can, and gives as much information as is needed, and no more.
- The maxim of quality, where one tries to be truthful, and does not give information that is false or that is not supported by evidence.
- The maxim of relation, where one tries to be relevant, and says things that are pertinent to the discussion.
- The maxim of manner, when one tries to be as clear, as brief, and as orderly as one can in what one says, and where one avoids obscurity and ambiguity.
In relation to the Hugh Mungus story, it appeared that Rudy may have broken the 4th maxim – manner. Maybe to most of the audience, the message was clear that it was a joke, however to others, that my not be the case. Maybe Rudy was not clear enough, causing ambiguity within his speech and resulting in an issue between the parties involved. If the language had been clear, and the language had been ‘neutral’ (words which contain no bias), this situation may have been avoided alotogether.
Although sometimes jokes like this can be harmless, there are examples where they actually hurt and look to degrade a certian gender. One recent example of this, is Donald Trump’s sexually charged conversation with Billy Bush (CBS News, 2016).
“I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it.
I did try and fuck her. She was married.
And I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said, “I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.” I took her out furniture—I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.
I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.
Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
In comparison with Rudy’s case, Trump is seen to be boasting to Billy Bush, and Cameron (2016) states that Billy’s acceptance of this behaviour, fuels the increased use of this type of language, as Trump sees nothing wrong with using it. Right lads?
The popularity of ‘lad’ culture can have an influence on this type of language, labelling it as ‘male-bonding‘ or banter, but it’s actually hurting people. Why is it that this language is labelled as a ‘joke’? Deborah Cameron (2016) describes this ‘locker-room talk’ as transgressive speech, allowing men (or whomever), to pass off these comments as banter. As the transcript shows, Trump is gloating (and almost taunting) about what he tried to do with the woman in context (gross). He brags about being able to “do anything” to this woman, including sexually asasulting her. Cameron furthers her points, by arguing that transgressive speech is degrading and suggets that if we continue using it, we can’t move forward from the inequalities within society.
Now, if Trump (unfortunatley one of the most powerful people in the world) were to change his language, could society change too? Idealistically, yes. If this type of language isn’t used to degrade and/or transgress a certian group, especially by someone whom has a large following and an incredible amount of power, then maybe others will start to adapt.
To finish, a quote by Cameron (2017);
“There are many things we will need to change if we are to make endemic sexual harassment a thing of the past. But we could start by changing our language: in particular, we could stop calling harassment ‘inappropriate behaviour’. It isn’t ‘inappropriate’, it is wrong, unjust, abusive and harmful. In its most serious forms it’s also criminal.”
Cameron agrees with the idea that changing our language use can change our society, as it effects the way in how people act towards each other. Changing what is said, may have an influence on how people think and act. Of course we will never truly know if changing language will change soceity, as everybody has the right to free speech and has different views. But maybe changing it a little at a time can help contribute to a fair, and safer one.
Word count – 984
Cameron, D. (2017, November 15). On banter, bonding and Donald Trump. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://debuk.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/on-banter-bonding-and-donald-trump/
Cameron, D. (2017, November 15). Men behaving inappropriately. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://debuk.wordpress.com/2017/11/04/men-behaving-inappropriately/
Clawson, L. (2016). Trump Locker Room Talk – Clinton Campaign. Retrieved from https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2016/10/10/1580444/-It-s-Trump-2005-vs-Trump-2016-in-new-Clinton-campaign-ad
Grice, H.P. (1975). “Logic and Conversation,” Syntax and Semantics. Morgan, Academic Press
[BenVapes]. (2017, November 14). Hugh Mungus (Original Video). [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzA4dCT4X0I