The Dreaded O-Word

I’ve never understood why people say, “I’m offended.” I’ve never used that phrase in my life, except in jest. What does it even mean? When someone says I’ve offended them, I feel like they are condemning me, and there seems to be an implicit demand for an apology. Couldn’t they just ask me, “Will you please not say that?”

I remember a few years ago when Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke a “slut” for asking for insurance coverage for contraceptives. Ordinary people across the country claimed offense over Limbaugh’s comments and demanded an apology. Why? Sure, what he said was rude, but we all know it had no basis in fact. 95% of us knew that Sandra Fluke’s political views don’t make her a slut.

The more reasonable approach would have been to shrug off Limbaugh’s comment. Why did people want an apology from him? Did their wellbeing hinge on an apology from Rush Limbaugh to Sandra Fluke? I don’t see the connection. In the words of David Allen: “My opinion is that anybody offended by breastfeeding is staring too hard.”

The fear of offending is regrettable because it puts so many fascinating subjects off limits, for example, religion, politics, and relationships. Don’t discuss the existence of God. That will offend the theist! Don’t speak about gay marriage. That will offend conservatives! And definitely don’t mention sex. That will offend virgins, celibates, and the infertile!

And why should dark humor be off limits? The point of dark humor isn’t to offend. The point of it is to make light of the unbearable. If we can laugh for a moment about the things that normally make us cry, that’s healing.

I knew a boy in middle school, we’ll call him Jack, who didn’t like it when people used the word “retarded” as a synonym for “stupid.” If someone around him used it, Jack asked the person to stop. Most people would. Some, like me, asked why. Jack explained that his little brother was retarded, and he didn’t like people using “retarded” as a negative term, because it isn’t. Everyone respected him and tried their best to stop using the word. It was the perfect method for Jack because he didn’t make us feel ashamed due to our ignorance.

If you have the urge to use the o-word, think it through first. Are your target’s words completely false? Then there’s no reason to be upset. Just calmly correct them. And if what they’re saying is true? Well then, you might be upset, but you can’t correct them, can you? It may be tactless, but it still is the truth.

17 thoughts on “The Dreaded O-Word

  1. It’s all part of being “politically correct.” We tip toe around certain topics, fearing we will offend. Yes, there’s that “O” word. Then again, there are many more topics we can discuss now than 100 years ago. Perhaps there’s hope.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a really good, really thoughtful article. I, too, get offended by this or that, but I realize it’s not worth it to argue with the “offender.” I’ve known bigots, loudmouths, whiners, and more. I would rather just plain ignore them than deal with them, because calling them on their garbage only seems to fuel their ignorant fire.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Claudia! “Fuel their ignorant fire.” Hmmm. I like that. I’ll keep that image in mind next time I feel the urge to engage someone who just won’t listen!


  3. What a delicious piece! I’m shocked at your outrageous, sweet, courageous sincerity.

    Are you running for office? I should like to vote for you! 🙂

    All other responses aside, I’ve loved this post. …made my eyes – and a gasp – pop out.

    I sooo agree with your sentiments (although I’m a bit sensitive about….)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I like that example of not using ‘retarded’ as a pejorative. I feel the same way about people using ‘gay’ as a negative term for pretty much anything – it’s far too prevalent. Even our Prime Minister (how embarrassing) used it thus on national radio, leading to the introduction of Gay Red Shirt Day.

    Liked by 1 person

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