Defining deviancy down in our discourse

Corey Hutchins started this rolling on Twitter this morning, but what shocked me was that Amanda Alpert Loveday reTweeted it:

Best @nikkihaley quote ever! “She’s been busy F-ing the rest of the state. I’m not surprised that she F-ed me.”@HBoydBrown @CoreyHutchins

My shock arises partly from Amanda being the… well, something over at the SC Democratic Party (apparently they’re too democratic at party HQ for titles, but she recently appeared on Pub Politics as the counterpart of Matt Moore, the GOP executive director). I know that her Twitter feed says “My tweets reflect my personal opinions…..,”  but still…

The second is that, well, Amanda just seems like such a sweet “little girl” (to use our governor’s term) to an alter cocker like me. I mean, look at her; I ask you.

Amanda, Amanda, Amanda…

And Corey, and Boyd — what are you boys doing using language like that around Amanda?

Seriously, folks… This is not only grossly inappropriate language to be used when referring to the governor of our state, it’s not an appropriate topic, even if you used euphemisms.

And why am I writing about it? Well, I wouldn’t have if this had come from one of the usual sources for such. But this was said (apparently on the record) by a state representative, repeated by a representative of the Fourth Estate, and picked up by a party official.

And that’s wrong, on all counts. Daniel Patrick Moynihan had a term for it, or at least one that can be adapted to this purpose: Defining deviancy down.

We don’t need to be on this downward spiral, people.

33 thoughts on “Defining deviancy down in our discourse

  1. Steven Davis

    You’ve obviously never overheard women talk, something they say would make a sailor blush.

  2. bud

    Sad as it may be to us old geezers the F-word is not regarded as offensive to younger people. Not sure why it’s still banned on TV.

  3. Nikki Nikki Bang Bang

    But Brad, he’s talking about Nikki’s report card grades…

    What were you thinking of?

  4. Juan Caruso

    Offensive language has been an easy identifier of self-styled, male activists with a certain political mindset since at least the early 60s.

    Few of those foul-mouthed activists in my acquaintance ever went on to professional careers.

    H. Boyd Brown (D) makes my non-professional generalization at least half correct. If my House member participated in offensively suggestive language like Mr. Brown’s, not only would he hear about it, he might have a challenger in the next election.

    Good luck in your career, Corey.

  5. Andrew

    Corey, from someone younger than you….

    It’s a terrible way to send a message, and you verify every negative stereotype folks have.

    I think you’re being sent a message about how to make your career better.

    Might want to heed it.

  6. Brad

    FYI, total disclosure here… originally, this post started as being totally tongue-in-cheek. It ended with the graf that begins, “And Corey, and Boyd…” (The headline was something like, “Don’t talk like that in front of Amanda!”)

    But then, before I saved it, I got to thinking… this is about the governor of our state. Even though I don’t want her to be our governor, that’s what she is. And everybody thinks I hate her already (which I don’t). So I felt like I should point out the obvious, which is that this is not an appropriate way to refer to the governor.

    Yeah, it was a semi-clever pun on the grading thing. But it makes a crude reference to salacious tales about this woman, and that’s wrong.

  7. Juan Caruso

    “…this post started as being totally tongue-in-cheek.”

    Forbes published (10/03/2011) featuring a chart summarizing Microsoft’s famous survey of 300 hiring execs: “Have you ever rejected a candidate because of what you saw about them on a social networking site?”

    Posting inappropriate comments and demonstrating poor communication skills accounted for over 20% of rejected candidates. Remarks about a work colleague, assuming Brown thinks he is Haley’s, accounted for an added rejection criterion.

    Contrary to someone wrote above, Rick Perry’s book is actually titled “Fed Up”. Apparently certain people like to mislead others and then claim to have been joking or to have misunderstood the U.S. Senate’s question.

  8. Doug Ross

    I only find the condemnation of inappropriate language meaningful if the person making the criticism doesn’t use the same language in private.

    If you’ve ever used the F-word in private, you’re a hypocrite if you comdemn someone for using it in public.

    Words don’t bother me.

  9. Doug Ross

    A big part of the problem with our political system is that we have people in there who act one way in public and another in private. Give me a person who is the same in both environments.

  10. Steven Davis

    “If you’ve ever used the F-word in private, you’re a hypocrite if you comdemn someone for using it in public. ”

    So it’s kind of like alcohol and Baptists…

  11. Doug Ross


    Exactly. It’s just a word. If you have to put on an act in public to meet some expectation of other people, why should I trust anything you say?

  12. Rachel

    Wow, Brad sticking up for Nikki Haley – even if in a roundabout way. Are pigs flying today?

    See, this is what you’ve reduced people to thinking about you Brad when you come across as usually unnecessarily nit-picky and whiny in regards to Haley.

  13. Kathryn Fenner

    When one uses carefully selected words of several syllables, one finds that certain fellow commentators become rather agitated, so much so that they cannot recall that Google provides a handy lexicon right at their fingertips. Perhaps one should indeed select more Anglo-Saxon words of one syllable?

  14. KP

    Refraining from offensive language in public isn’t putting on an act. It’s respectful. Like not wearing your speedo on the beach, not belching in the middle of a crowded restaurant and not going to the grocery store in your bathrobe and pink curlers. Many people object to crude language, so it’s just good manners not to use it in their hearing. And keep offa my lawn too.

  15. Brad

    adj. crud·er, crud·est
    1. Being in an unrefined or natural state; raw.
    2. Lacking tact or taste; blunt or offensive: a crude, mannerless oaf; a crude remark.
    3. Characterized by uncultured simplicity; lacking in sophistication or subtlety: had only a crude notion of how a computer works.
    4. Not carefully or skillfully made; rough: a quick, crude sketch.
    5. Undisguised or unadorned; plain: must face the crude truth.
    6. Statistics In an unanalyzed form; not adjusted to allow for related circumstances or data.
    7. Archaic Unripe or immature.

    That was from the Free Online Dictionary.

  16. Doug Ross

    So crudeness is in the ear of the beholder, right?

    Well that is a dang funkin’ son of a biscuit thing, ain’t it?

    I remember when the Watergate tapes revealed that Richard Nixon had a pretty coarse vocabulary in private. Trying to be two different people isn’t easy.

  17. Brad

    I didn’t want to get into a side argument on this, but speaking differently to different people is in no way hypocritical or wrong or even difficult.

    Everyone does it. Everyone SHOULD do it, in the sense that we communicate differently to different people. In general, I’m not talking profanity here, although I hope soldiers and sailors don’t use their “work” language around their kids. Just as I didn’t use newsroom language around mine.

    When I was a kid, I used to notice myself sliding into different accents depending on to whom I was speaking. I said something about that to my mother once when I was a teenager and she disapproved, saying that was somehow an indication of false character or something.

    But it wasn’t, not for me. My mother has a strong Southern accent, and for her to speak any other way WOULD be an affectation, and false.

    But I had grown up all over the place, speaking two languages, and speaking English in a variety of settings where people spoke very differently. I didn’t have a strong accent of any kind after I was about six years old (up to that point, I had lived mostly in SC — a few months in New Jersey did away with that). So speaking this way or that way was all the same to me. It was like a chameleon taking on the color of his background. There was no right, true, authentic way of speaking that was the real me.

    As I grew older, I became less adept at accents, and more likely to speak the same way all the time. And all these years in SC (and Tennessee before that) have sort of flavored my speech with Southern patterns again. But I still notice myself going more or less that way depending on whom I am speaking to. It’s sort of unconscious. But no particular pattern is the genuine one to any great degree.

    Another way of looking at it: I’ve spent most of my life supervising other people. One of the myths of the workplace is that a boss should treat every subordinate in exactly the same manner. I learned failure quickly how stupid that was. Everyone is motivated differently, responds to different tones and approaches. So I spoke to people differently. The point is to treat everyone fairly, not everyone the same.

    I could go on, and probably will, after you respond. But to me, the profanity question is simply a small subset of a much larger area of human interaction.

  18. Kathryn Fenner

    Crude language means language that refers to slang for copulatory or excretory functions or related body parts not used to describe same. I suppose even if it used to describe the functions,the use of slang terms is crude. See also, “obscenity,” “vulgarity.”

    Profanity is “taking the Lord’s name in vain” and the like. Somehow that feels more acceptable to my age group–the younger Boomers.I mean, “damn” just doesn’t raise many eyebrows any more, does it?

  19. Micah

    However much I may or may not agree with Brown’s sentiments, I’m compelled to agree with Brad. Civility isn’t dead – or at least it shouldn’t be in our elected officials.

    But, more than that, let’s remember that underneath this are real problems that need to be addressed by our elected officials.

    This isn’t leadership – not by any stretch of the imagination.

    What’s been done here? Widening the chasm between the legislature and the Governor? What good does that do?

    This was the political equivalent of a fart joke and it’s been rewarded with headlines and ‘attaboys’. It makes me sad. This sort of sophomoric humor belongs on a script for Jon Stewart, not on the tongues of elected officials speaking to otherwise respectable newspapers.

  20. Doug Ross

    Simple question, Brad – are there occasions where you use profanity, including the dreaded F-word?

    I never acquired the ability to swear at a tender age so it would sound silly coming out of my mouth now. I could count on one hand the number of damn’s I heard from my father in 45 years.

    But it doesn’t bother me at all when others do it. A good friend in high school couldn’t put three words together without using the F-word as a verb, adjective, or adverb. Didn’t bother me.

    And I find Eminem to be a borderline genius lyrically even though his most recent hit is bleeped every other word when played on WNOK.

  21. Kathy

    We in SC defined deviancy down when we elected that woman as our governor. In order to receive respect one should be respectable.

  22. KP

    Sorry to perpetuate the side argument, Brad, but you are absolutely right. It was always interesting to sneak up behind my dad, who was raised by an English teacher and had a masters degree in history, in the tobacco warehouse he ran in Pamplico during the 1980’s. I’d hear a hundred “ain’ts” and an impressive variety of subject-verb disagreements and more than a little profanity –until he realized I was standing behind him. Then he cleaned it up. It was appropriate for his audience, but it wasn’t appropriate for everyone.

    And Micah — I’m with you. This is fun, but there’s a truth underlying it that is much more important.

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