Bad Language: Emerging Issues in Electronic Discourse

by Rex Troumbley


This project considers the conditions necessary for the concept of “bad language” and several issues which are emerging as a result of their regulation in electronic discourse. Building on the theories of Marshall McLuhan and Walter Ong, this project demonstrates how varying dominant communicative technologies have molded consciousness and created different types of people whose patterns of thought have been shaped by those technologies, including their regulation of bad language. In the early English-speaking world, the practice of writing was understood to have magical properties and their use was controlled by grammars or the need for a guru to read them aloud. The concept of “curse words” was possible only after the introduction of vernacular writing, particularly after printing required words to appear as discrete expressions separated by white spaces on a page. Print established the conditions necessary for English language dictionaries, written primarily for writers, and radically removed words from contexts in an attempt to establish fixed meanings.(continue…)

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