Word of the Day: obscene, profane, and vulgar

Today’s words are all adjectives and they all have similar meanings, but each word has a different quality.

The word obscene suggests something that is offensive to decency or morality and which is abominable, disgusting, or repulsive. For me the Jerry Springer Show comes to mind as the perfect example of something that is obscene par excellence.  However, the word can also be used to describe something that is in greater excess than it ought to be. For example: obscene wealth. A great example of an obscene word is cocksucker, one of the late George Carlin’s Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television. It’s nicely offensive isn’t it? And it’s certainly indecent and possibly immoral.

Moving on to profane, then. This word in its noun form: profanity, is often used to encapsulate all “bad” and “dirty” words, but the word profane itself has religious connotations. It’s the antonym of the word sacred. Something that is profane is characterized by an irreverence or contempt for God or sacred principles or things. I’ve never been particularly religious, but to me, the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church – pretty much everything they do – but particularly their picketing the funerals of soldiers and marines killed in action. Well, to me that’s just profane. They are the antithesis of everything decent and honest and good in this world.

Finally, the word vulgar pretty much describes much of the content of MTV these days. Vulgarity is characterized by a complete ignorance of or a total lack of good breeding and taste. (See: Jersey Shore) It’s inelegant, unrefined, ribald, low. In Shakespeare’s time, the word vulgar meant “common,” in a Kate Middleton-ish kind of way. Basically not royalty. Even farther back the word vulgar meant “vernacular.”  At one time there was huge controversy over the first bible written in a vernacular (non-Latin) language. It was called the “Vulgate” bible.  Interesting, huh?

Until next time…

America: The Greatest Show in the World

We Americans love a good show.  Little do we know that we are actually part of the show now.  Other people from around the world are watching our slow decline into a Third World nation.  While we are busy arguing about the “big issues” like abortion, gay marriage, and evolution; our roads are being unpaved, we are becoming poorer, and more stupid.  As the old Carl Sagan remarked in his book, Cosmos, we have more astrologists and psychics than astronomers.  And why wouldn’t we, after all, astronomy requires serious thinking?  Better to go with the gut feeling of an astrologist.

Just look at your newspaper, one-third of the newspaper is comprised of the sports pages these days!  In fact, there’s more sports coverage than foreign news coverage!  A whole page is devoted to a home run, while a suicide bomber in Afghanistan killing two Marines gets a paragraph.  Charlie Sheen’s Truth Tour gets more exposure than a top general in Iraq discussing rebuilding efforts.  The sad thing is we don’t realize that this is happening to us.  And if we do, we don’t seem to care as long as the circus continues and we are “pacified” with cheap trinkets from China or entertainment in the form of Snooki.  Never mind that Snooki got more money for giving a talk at Rutgers University than Nobel-Fucking-Prize-Winning-and-I-Got-A-Damned-Pulitzer-Too Toni Morrison!  How the hell did that happen?

Richard Hofstadter wrote a book entitled Anti-Intellectualism in American Life back in 1963.  If you haven’t read this book, I highly suggest you pick it up at your local public library.  That’s if you still have a public library!  In his book, Hofstadter laments the poor state of the American intellectual, and how he must contend with a rising tide of stupidity coming from his fellow countrymen.  That’s a paraphrase of course, and a pretty dumbed down version of things, but hopefully it’s easy enough for people to understand.

Anyhow, I’m off to plan my vacation trip to the Creation Museum, and maybe I’ll swing by Dollywood as well.