Sunday, June 20, 2010

Language and death

As I take a brief hiatus for vacation, I don't want my many readers to be too bereft, so I put out here two unrelated questions, one minor, one major, for contemplation. I will return around July 4.

1. Profanity: This word is continually used by the media to refer to movies, etc. that have "bad language." Yet the dictionary tells me what I was taught in parochial school: that profanity is blasphemous speech; it is inseparable from religion and can mean secular, unholy, irreligious. It is taking the name of God in vain, as in "goddamn," etc. Or the use of the name of Jesus Christ, which admittedly makes an effective curse word given its sound, as an exclamation. Anybody familiar with the old Holy Name Society knows what I mean. Profanity is clearly distinguished from obscenity (sexual terms such as the ubiquitous f-word so widely overused today that one hopes it will one day expire from exhaustion) and vulgarity (bodily functions, e.g., piss).
Has profanity been watered down in its meaning, or has our secular culture concluded that, religion being irrelevant to most of life, there is no point in defaming a God who doesn't exist?

2. In the opening the Dutch film, "Antonia's Line," the main character says that "death is a miracle." I didn't watch enough of this movie to know if this was a correct translation or if the story exemplies the idea that not only is life a miracle but death is, too. In what sense is death a miracle?

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