Terminology debate - "mute" versus "voice-off"

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brythain
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Re: Terminology debate - "mute" versus "voice-off"

Post by brythain » Mon Jan 12, 2015 7:56 pm

Charmant wrote:
brythain wrote:
Charmant wrote:People would be a lot better off in general if they focused less on words and more on the meaning behind them. "Mute" just means soundless. Some guy prefers "Voice Off"? Great. He can call himself that. Me? I prefer "mute" so I'll call him that. Nobody needs to be offended on either end when the meaning is exactly the same.
Whereas this is generally true, the point then would be that you know this offends him (for whatever reason or lack of it) and you are deliberately offending him because you believe he shouldn't be offended. But the fact remains that he is, so now this is just provocation. The right to free speech is not one that should be limited by coercion, but it can be tempered by courtesy. This is true of many things that you can say which would be descriptively accurate but hurtful—you can always claim that accuracy trumps personal feelings, but would you deliberately extend that claim to every human being you encounter simply because you personally feel that their personal feelings shouldn't matter?
If I am using the term "mute" in a non-derogatory manner solely for the purpose of accurately denoting their soundlessness, and they actively choose to ignore this reality for the sake of persisting in being offended in a scenario where it has been shown that no offensive intent is involved, I most certainly would say their feelings shouldn't matter. You don't get to be offended when there is nothing present at which to be offended.

It'd be about as valid as me deciding I'm offended by the name "brythain" despite there being nothing actually offensive about it at all. Now, are you gonna go change your username so as to honor my arbitrary nonsense? No, because that'd be a really stupid thing to have to accommodate.

Actually, a more forum-appropriate example comes to mind: "Katawa Shoujo" offended some on account of "katawa" being a literal translation of "cripple". Did 4LS alter the title, or offer an alternative-titled version for potentially-offended people to download? No. They explained that there is no offensive intent, considered the matter settled, and went on their way with the title still in place. And it wasn't even remotely about "provocation".
I suppose you've missed my point. If X doesn't like being called 'Y' to his face, don't call him 'Y'. I don't mind being called 'brythain', but if you don't like it, I won't call you 'brythain'. Get it? :D

Edit: As you can tell, I am easily amused.

1. You could always call them 'soundless' then, since that is what you claim you're accurately denoting.
2. If you can successfully argue, based on all the research you've done, that 'brythain' is an offensive term when applied to me, I'll be offended and change my username.
3. Did the offended people feel that they were rationally treated? Did they say that continued usage of the term was designed to provoke them?
Last edited by brythain on Mon Jan 12, 2015 10:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Adaptive technology

Post by metalangel » Mon Jan 12, 2015 9:50 pm

Atario wrote: It's not even down to shades of meaning, it's straight-up misrepresentation on your part. I said people primarily know the word as a label on a playback device, so it's primarily a choice-thing in people's minds, and therefore the rarer no-choice meaning should be the one to differentiate itself, if such a thing should even be done in the first place. Then you pretended I said my remote has a mute button, therefore there can be no other meaning. All the while yourself insisting that there can be no other meaning than the no-choice meaning.
Here's the actual quote:
Atario wrote: Buuuut… I'd say that for a few decades now at least, the primary use of "mute" is that every remote control, TV, stereo, and media player (device and software) in existence has a "mute" button, which controls a setting and is therefore implicitly a choice and not an inherent limitation. Seems to me it's the other condition that should differentiate itself (if indeed such differentiation is even worth creating a special term over).
So the primary meaning is a voluntary turning off of the sound, but the dictionary meaning, so often quoted here as proof (unable to) is only the secondary meaning? The primary meaning is the incorrect one.
Your efforts seem aimed not only at sabotaging any such reclamation, but at furthering perceptions of offense. It's very unclear what improvement you hope to be made to the lexicon by doing this.
What? I told everyone the perception of the word as it stands to day, after multiple posts of you guys arguing back and forth about what it even meant and all getting it wrong there, too. There was that humdinger of being 'deaf by choice'. In that context, it made sense to say what mute actually means to a person who is deaf. I suppose that thread was a foreshadowing of this whole shit-storm given nobody could agree on a meaning there either but were all most insistent their incorrect definition was right.
I'm wrong and have to shut up and submit to the New Received Meaning, end of story? How is that give and take?
You stop saying that, they'll stop being mad at you. You seem to think you're being made someone's bitch by admitting a mistake.
Are there people out there who will be offended? Sure, I bet there are, somewhere. I have yet to meet any, but if I ever do find any, I'll let them tell me directly if they themselves are personally offended. I won't like being told how I can and can't talk, but I'll probably go along with it, at least when they're around. Of course, this feeling of walking on eggshells could very well cause me to minimize my contact with them.
Given your attitude seems to be "I don't think it should be offensive, therefore it isn't", that would probably best for both parties.
If by "ignorance", you mean "unfamiliarity with this supposed verboten status", that's one thing. But I have a distinct feeling you actually mean "obvious caveman-like inferiority to enlightened people like myself".
Versus the very alpha aggressive response? My strawman can beat up your strawman.
But that's exactly what's happened here. You told him it's offensive; he questioned it; and then you berated him for arguing back at you.
He also held the 'I don't see why it could be considered offensive, therefore it isn't' viewpoint.
Is automatically acceding to every demand a viewpoint?
This isn't automatic at all - the reasons why it's considered offensive have been made clear albeit for reasons you don't agree with to the point of finding them laughable.
I'm going to have to ask you to stop using the word "intention". If you persist, you're only trying to cause trouble.
Maybe my strawman should buy yours a drink? How about some rye, or maybe a wheat beer? :lol:

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Re: Adaptive technology

Post by BMFJack » Mon Jan 12, 2015 10:31 pm

metalangel wrote:So the primary meaning is a voluntary turning off of the sound, but the dictionary meaning, so often quoted here as proof (unable to) is only the secondary meaning? The primary meaning is the incorrect one.

...

What? I told everyone the perception of the word as it stands to day, after multiple posts of you guys arguing back and forth about what it even meant and all getting it wrong there, too
Because of these two ridiculous quotes, I'm completely done with this. I get the feeling you're one of those "I'm right no matter how much facts and evidence you point at me, because my word is better than those facts and evidence."

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Re: Adaptive technology

Post by brythain » Mon Jan 12, 2015 10:36 pm

BMFJack wrote:
metalangel wrote:So the primary meaning is a voluntary turning off of the sound, but the dictionary meaning, so often quoted here as proof (unable to) is only the secondary meaning? The primary meaning is the incorrect one.

...

What? I told everyone the perception of the word as it stands to day, after multiple posts of you guys arguing back and forth about what it even meant and all getting it wrong there, too
Because of these two ridiculous quotes, I'm completely done with this. I get the feeling you're one of those "I'm right no matter how much facts and evidence you point at me, because my word is better than those facts and evidence."
That first part was funny though. The word 'mute' can be noun, verb and adjective; its use as one of them doesn't exclude its other uses.
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Re: Adaptive technology

Post by Atario » Tue Jan 13, 2015 12:22 am

metalangel wrote:Here's the actual quote:
Atario wrote: Buuuut… I'd say that for a few decades now at least, the primary use of "mute" is that every remote control, TV, stereo, and media player (device and software) in existence has a "mute" button, which controls a setting and is therefore implicitly a choice and not an inherent limitation. Seems to me it's the other condition that should differentiate itself (if indeed such differentiation is even worth creating a special term over).
So the primary meaning is a voluntary turning off of the sound, but the dictionary meaning, so often quoted here as proof (unable to) is only the secondary meaning? The primary meaning is the incorrect one.
I'm unable to follow what you're trying to assert here. The layers of sarcasm and/or lexico-oral insertion are too dense. In addition to your confusing my assessment with the dictionary's.

Here, I've taken the definitions from dictionary.com and color-coded them. Red = by-choice, blue = by-incapacity, purple = either.
dictionary.com wrote:mute
adjective
1. silent; refraining from speech or utterance.
2. not emitting or having sound of any kind.
3. incapable of speech; dumb.
4. (of letters) silent; not pronounced.
5. Law. (of a person who has been arraigned) making no plea or giving an irrelevant response when arraigned, or refusing to stand trial (used chiefly in the phrase to stand mute).
6. Fox Hunting. (of a hound) hunting a line without giving tongue or cry.
noun
7. Offensive. a person incapable of speech.
8. an actor whose part is confined to dumb show.
9. Law. a person who stands mute when arraigned.
10. Also called sordino. a mechanical device of various shapes and materials for muffling the tone of a musical instrument.
11. Phonetics. a stop.
12. British Obsolete. a hired mourner at a funeral; a professional mourner.
verb (used with object)
13. to deaden or muffle the sound of.
14. to reduce the intensity of (a color) by the addition of another color.
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
=====
mute
adjective
1. not giving out sound or speech; silent
2. unable to speak; dumb
3. unspoken or unexpressed: mute dislike
4. (law) (of a person arraigned on indictment) refusing to answer a charge
5. (phonetics) another word for plosive
6. (of a letter in a word) silent
noun
7. a person who is unable to speak
8. (law) a person who refuses to plead when arraigned on indictment for an offence
9. any of various devices used to soften the tone of stringed or brass instruments
10. (phonetics) a plosive consonant; stop
11. a silent letter
12. an actor in a dumb show
13. a hired mourner at a funeral
verb (transitive)
14. to reduce the volume of (a musical instrument) by means of a mute, soft pedal, etc
15. to subdue the strength of (a colour, tone, lighting, etc)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
=====
mute
adj.
Unable or unwilling to speak.
n.
One who does not have the faculty of speech. No longer in technical use, considered offensive.
The American Heritage ® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
My remote-control meaning seems to be the primary verb definition (the secondary one probably generally only beknownst to Rin, Nomiya, and their like). The one marked "offensive" seems to be the primary noun definition. The various adjective meanings are apparently not generally offensive, and only one — secondary or tertiary — in each group means by-incapacity. Unfortunately, it's not possible to compare across parts of speech, as they segregate them and list alphabetically. At any rate, if a real lexicographer were to count up instances of the various uses, I'd be super surprised if all the nouns put together were anywhere near the top single adjective or verb meanings. I mean, honestly, how often is a person who never talks (by choice or not) even mentioned compared to "hey, mute that TV, willya?" and "on this matter, the author remains mute" and so forth?

All told, it's kinda beyond me why you keep insisting that "mute" can only mean physical incapacity to talk.
Your efforts seem aimed not only at sabotaging any such reclamation, but at furthering perceptions of offense. It's very unclear what improvement you hope to be made to the lexicon by doing this.
What? I told everyone the perception of the word as it stands to day
…by a particular subset of a subset of people. We all seem to know plenty of deaf people who either don't mind it or actually prefer it, and none who are offended by it. So it seems like the consensus is far from the black-and-white picture you're painting.
There was that humdinger of being 'deaf by choice'.
Not seeing where anyone said that, either. Getting to be a pattern…
I'm wrong and have to shut up and submit to the New Received Meaning, end of story? How is that give and take?
You stop saying that, they'll stop being mad at you.
This is a depressing new definition of "give and take" that will come in handy in political circles, I'm sure. "We tell you what to do, and you do it. See? Give and take!"
You seem to think you're being made someone's bitch by admitting a mistake.
You seem to think I'm making a mistake. As is anyone who disagrees with you about more or less anything.
that would probably best for both parties.
On that, we can agree. I hardly need people in my life who go around searching for innocuous things to be offended about and telling me how I'm allowed to talk.
If by "ignorance", you mean "unfamiliarity with this supposed verboten status", that's one thing. But I have a distinct feeling you actually mean "obvious caveman-like inferiority to enlightened people like myself".
Versus the very alpha aggressive response? My strawman can beat up your strawman.
You're welcome to explain what your meaning was. Or, hey, just snort at me more, that works, right?
But that's exactly what's happened here. You told him it's offensive; he questioned it; and then you berated him for arguing back at you.
He also held the 'I don't see why it could be considered offensive, therefore it isn't' viewpoint.
And that makes it ok for you to forbid him from arguing?
Is automatically acceding to every demand a viewpoint?
This isn't automatic at all - the reasons why it's considered offensive have been made clear
They haven't at all. The closest anyone came was someone — definitely not you — saying it was the blanket assumption that all deaf people are also mute (whether by choice or not). I could see someone being annoyed by something so factually wrong, but in reality I could not point to a single human being in this day and age who is not aware of deaf people talking all the time. I mean, the phrase "deaf accent" is pretty well-known in itself, and you gotta talk to have an accent, y'know? Marlee Matlin alone has been around for decades, and she's not exactly a secret. Not to mention all the talking deaf people everyone seems to know personally.

Your own attempts are all rooted in insisting that there can be no other kind of muteness besides physical incapability, and despite your flailing, we can all plainly see that voluntary muteness is still muteness.
albeit for reasons you don't agree with to the point of finding them laughable.
Again with putting words in my mouth. I don't know where you're getting this "laughable" business.
NB: none of the above is a request

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Re: Terminology debate - "mute" versus "voice-off"

Post by BMFJack » Wed Jan 14, 2015 7:56 am

After doing a considerable amount of research, I think I've managed to get to the bottom of this. It's pretty funny to me, but this whole debate is a simple misunderstanding. Singularly, "mute" isn't offensive - not unless you're referring to a deaf person who talks. (Not 'can talk', but actually talks)

However, the term "Deaf-mute" is offensive - even if you're referring to someone who is both deaf and mute. Using "mute" as a noun is also offensive, even if the person is mute.

The distinction seems to be whether you're using it as a noun or an adjective. (using it as a verb isn't relevant to the conversation, in my opinion) If you say "John is a mute," then that is offensive. However, if you say "John is mute," then that is an acceptable use of the term and not offensive. This is presupposing that John does not speak, regardless of ability.

I admit I got pretty irritated with you, metalangel, but only because you were acting as if you had already explained to us simpletons that it was offensive and that was the end of the discussion; that we were being antagonistic by trying to discover why it was offensive in the form of a debate - we were giving you a lot of facts and evidence that reinforced our idea that it was not offensive, while your sole rebuttal (over and over again, I might add) was "I have already told you it's offensive, so just stop saying it." However, besides one completely inaccurate quote, you completely failed to give any kind of reason why we should stop using it. ('Because I said so' isn't a valid reason.)

I hope I've made this very clear, because I spent a lot of time and effort doing way more research than I really should have.

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Re: Terminology debate - "mute" versus "voice-off"

Post by SpunkySix » Wed Jan 14, 2015 1:44 pm

Why does it matter? If you're not using it as an insult, then how is either term not perfectly apt?
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Re: Terminology debate - "mute" versus "voice-off"

Post by Charmant » Wed Jan 14, 2015 6:15 pm

brythain wrote:1. You could always call them 'soundless' then, since that is what you claim you're accurately denoting.
Or

Or

OR

I could call them "mute" because the meaning is exactly the same and, again, arbitrary offense at a word with factually zero offensive intent or meaning behind it is stupid. :mrgreen:

What you've said above is, paraphrased, "Well, if they mean the same thing, why don't you just say 'soundless'?!"...Fair enough. But on that same note, if they mean the same thing, why can't I just say 'mute'?

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Re: Terminology debate - "mute" versus "voice-off"

Post by brythain » Wed Jan 14, 2015 6:55 pm

SpunkySix wrote:Why does it matter? If you're not using it as an insult, then how is either term not perfectly apt?
Because in English, synonyms rarely are perfectly synonymous in effect. X might be a bastard, or illegitimate; the two may be synonymous for his legal status. But 'bastard' is seen as a gratuitous pejorative. Same with 'fuck' (verb) and 'fuck' (other uses), I guess. You might not use it as an insult (as in 'you dumb fuck' as a term of endearment) but people might take offence anyway, yes?
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Re: Terminology debate - "mute" versus "voice-off"

Post by brythain » Wed Jan 14, 2015 7:01 pm

Charmant wrote:
brythain wrote:I could call them "mute" because the meaning is exactly the same and, again, arbitrary offense at a word with factually zero offensive intent or meaning behind it is stupid. :mrgreen:

What you've said above is, paraphrased, "Well, if they mean the same thing, why don't you just say 'soundless'?!"...Fair enough. But on that same note, if they mean the same thing, why can't I just say 'mute'?
Because, in English, there are seldom two words completely synonymous in effect. That's why we have word choice when we write.

"Charmant was speechless."
"Charmant was voiceless."
"Charmant was soundless."
"Charmant was silent."
"Charmant was noiseless."
"Charmant was taciturn."
"Charmant was reticent."
"Charmant was mute."
"Charmant was dumb."
"Charmant was muted."
"Charmant was dumbstruck."
"Charmant was dumbfounded."
"Charmant was unable to speak."

And that's just off the top of my head. But I'm sure that one would find different shades of meaning and be a more effective writer and speaker if one knew how to use each of those as a different lexeme and not as some interchangeable lexical component with no semantic difference.
Last edited by brythain on Wed Jan 14, 2015 10:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Terminology debate - "mute" versus "voice-off"

Post by Charmant » Wed Jan 14, 2015 9:59 pm

brythain wrote:
Charmant wrote:
brythain wrote:I could call them "mute" because the meaning is exactly the same and, again, arbitrary offense at a word with factually zero offensive intent or meaning behind it is stupid. :mrgreen:

What you've said above is, paraphrased, "Well, if they mean the same thing, why don't you just say 'soundless'?!"...Fair enough. But on that same note, if they mean the same thing, why can't I just say 'mute'?
Because, in English, there are seldom two words completely synonymous in effect. That's why we have word choice when we write.

"Charmant was speechless."
"Charmant was voiceless."
"Charmant was soundless."
"Charmant was silent."
"Charmant was noiseless."
"Charmant was taciturn."
"Charmant was reticent."
"Charmant was mute."
"Charmant was dumb."
"Charmant was muted."
"Charmant was dumbstruck."
"Charmant was dumbfounded."
"Charmant was unable to speak."

And that's just off the top of my head. But I'm sure that one would find different shades of meaning and be a more effective writer and speaker if one knew how to use each of those as a different lexeme and not as some interchangeable lexical component with no semantic difference.

Speechless: Without speech
Voiceless: Without a voice
Soundless: Without sound
Noiseless: Without noise
Taciturn: Reserved in speech
Reticent: Not revealing one's thoughts or feelings readily
Mute: Unwilling or unable to speak
Dumb: Possessing a low intelligence
Dumbfounded: Baffled into speechlessness or silence


"Mute" and "soundless" are close enough in meaning to be understood as interchangeable whereas many of those words are not close enough in meaning for that.

Your argument here is, pardon my paraphrase, "WELL, BECAUSE OTHER WORDS AND STUFF!" Yeah, okay, great. But "mute" is among the word choices available to me in the English language so why can't I choose it? Essentially, the question you have yet to answer is what about "mute" magically makes it offensive as opposed to any of its various synonyms (including "voice off")?

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Question: Why use 'mute' for better alternatives?

Post by brythain » Wed Jan 14, 2015 10:26 pm

Charmant wrote:"Mute" and "soundless" are close enough in meaning to be understood as interchangeable whereas many of those words are not close enough in meaning for that.

Your argument here is, pardon my paraphrase, "WELL, BECAUSE OTHER WORDS AND STUFF!" Yeah, okay, great. But "mute" is among the word choices available to me in the English language so why can't I choose it? Essentially, the question you have yet to answer is what about "mute" magically makes it offensive as opposed to any of its various synonyms (including "voice off")?
I note you left out 'silent'.

If X is unwilling to speak, you wouldn't call X 'mute' except for rhetorical purposes. E.g. 'Senator X remained mute on the topic even when pressed further.'
If X is unable to speak, then X is 'speechless' by your definition.

Mute is not 'magically' offensive but can possibly be socially so. My point about 'why can't I when there are equal alternatives' is that if they are truly equal, then you do indeed have a choice. So that choice becomes, "Of two equal alternatives, do I use the one that offends you or the one that doesn't?" This is a choice of civilised societies: given two equal alternatives, why should I NOT use the one that fails to offend? There may be good reasons, and I accept that.

For me, the only reason I can see for it is to assert my freedom of speech as independent of your personal preferences. It is a legitimate stance, the position of someone willing to say, "I don't care if it is offensive; I think (or feel) that I want to use it anyway." In some contexts, that can be heroic, in some it's just being insensitive or a douche. It is a question you should answer for yourself.

So: are you being a heroic defender of personal freedoms or a deliberately insensitive person? Are you just a normal everyday human preferring shorter words? Something else? All these are socially determined choices on one hand, and individually determined choices on the other, as far as perception goes. You can choose to see yourself as one of them, and still have people view you as something else. The idea that you can be who you are and nobody else's opinion matters is itself based on your social context.

Edit1: Sidetrack—what's wrong with calling anyone a 'douche' anyway? Most people should want to be called 'a stream of water introduced for cleansing or hygienic purposes'. Right? :D

Edit2: I see you've accepted the role of sociohistorical impact in your definition of the word 'dumb', which occupied much the same place as 'mute' in the past. Dictionaries are social instruments too.

Edit3: "The ninja moved mutely across the floor" somehow fails the 'soundless' test. "Shizune isn't very good at verbalisation", "Shizune chooses not to speak", "Shizune has a physical defect which makes her incapable of speech" (etc) are all better than "Shizune is mute" because they inform to a greater degree.
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Re: Terminology debate - "mute" versus "voice-off"

Post by brythain » Wed Jan 14, 2015 10:44 pm

Interesting question: what do you call someone with substantial lower-limb impairment that precludes a normal range of locomotion?

Such people used to be known as 'cripples' (from c. 10th century) and 'lame' (even earlier).
These terms began to be used primarily as pejoratives from the 1960s and 1970s.

This is especially relevant because of the etymology of 'katawa' which connotes something like a cart with a missing wheel.
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Re: Terminology debate - "mute" versus "voice-off"

Post by SpunkySix » Thu Jan 15, 2015 2:33 am

brythain wrote:
SpunkySix wrote:Why does it matter? If you're not using it as an insult, then how is either term not perfectly apt?
Because in English, synonyms rarely are perfectly synonymous in effect. X might be a bastard, or illegitimate; the two may be synonymous for his legal status. But 'bastard' is seen as a gratuitous pejorative. Same with 'fuck' (verb) and 'fuck' (other uses), I guess. You might not use it as an insult (as in 'you dumb fuck' as a term of endearment) but people might take offence anyway, yes?
To an extent I see your point, but I struggle with this in my head because I've always seen this as a problem with the person being referred to. Being offended doesn't automatically make you right. You have every freedom to take offense to something and see it as an insult if you want, but that doesn't change the fact that it isn't actually an insult and you're basically warping reality to fit what you want to see instead of seeing what's actually there.

It just seems to me like people go out of their way to take be offended by things. That's not to say that people shouldn't try to respect some basic obvious limits out of common courtesy, but when we have to have a semantics debate to decide what should/shouldn't count as politically incorrect and "offensive" then we're probably splitting hairs and would be better off just accepting that nobody is being antagonistic by using either term.

Basically, context is important and usually pretty obvious. If somebody really wants to insult somebody else, they can make it clear by calling them "the idiot that can't talk" or something. Otherwise, it would be much easier for everybody involved to know that's not what is being said and just move on to more important things.
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Re: Terminology debate - "mute" versus "voice-off"

Post by brythain » Thu Jan 15, 2015 2:50 am

SpunkySix wrote:You have every freedom to take offense to something and see it as an insult if you want, but that doesn't change the fact that it isn't actually an insult and you're basically warping reality to fit what you want to see instead of seeing what's actually there.

It just seems to me like people go out of their way to take be offended by things.
I'd say that insults are determined by social context. It's human society that determines if a term is pejorative or not, and we have thousands of years of history to support that position. No term is inherently pejorative, but it draws upon what society thinks is pejorative to have its power. People in general -don't- go out of their way to take offence; but by that token, people don't generally go out of their way to use a term that is seen as insulting by the population addressed. I mean, if you call me an African-American and I complain that I am zero per cent African and that term is insulting to me, then the logical thing to ask is, "So, what do you want me to call you, then?"
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