Shaun Proulx – I Love Words

Singer Madonna performs onstage during the 56th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

Singer Madonna performs onstage during the 56th GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Image

The Shaun Proulx Show is heard Saturdays at 3 pm and 8 pm EST and Sundays 4 pm EST on SiriusXM Canada Talks 167.

I love words. I love that I make a living with words, using them like paint to create ideas, images, provoke thought, to fully express precisely what I mean. My late father was a writer, maybe that’s where I got it from.

Did you see the issue of V magazine, the one with Madonna and Katy Perry in it? Katy tells Madonna that before she fell in love with music she fell in love with words: “Words are so powerful to me,” she said. That’s how I feel, words are like a drug.

Which is why I think we need to start respecting words a little more than maybe we have been.

Words are potent, like drugs. Words have power, power driven by the intention used when we say them.

I would love to see that honoured more.

We haven’t been, and so these days the word police – first cousin to the thought police – are taking full advantage. The word police have no concept that a word can mean so many things, especially depending on who says them (‘karma is a bitch’, evoking cosmic revenge; ‘that’s good karma’, evoking cosmic benevolence). The word police feel that words mean what THEY think words mean and the end result is we now have word police telling us what words we can and cannot use.

I’m thinking of this year’s RuPaul’s Drag Race controversy over the words ‘tranny’ and ‘shemale’. The show actually changed its format because a group of people – many of whom feel they own those words more than say, I as a non-trans person does – made such a stink it was easier for the TV show to behave in a way that made the word police happy than keep using the words ‘tranny’ and ‘shemale’. Even though RuPaul Charles has done more towards mainstream tiptoe-ing into some understanding of sexuality, the art of drag, and the notion of gender bending than any member of the thought police could ever hope to accomplish in their lifetimes.

This past weekend a transgender woman strode past my husband and I, and she was full on flawless.

“Look at tranny go,” I said, and I said it with utmost respect for this individual’s incredible hair, expertly plumped up face, jaw-dropping Louboutin boots…  just the general A+ package that rushed passed us; did I mention this was a Sunday morning?

It was my choice to indicate what I was seeing was a trangender woman by using the word tranny because I was feeling, really honestly, too lazy just up walking our dog, waking still, to say “Look at that transgender woman go”. My intention was as innocent as that.

And that is my right.

But of course, the word police, who own the word ‘tranny’, who could be reading this, are probably ready to wring my neck and are doubtlessly looking for my email address right about now.

A few years ago I hosted the afternoon drive show on an FM radio station and there was a guy who was a host there too and he didn’t like me and he looked for every reason to complain about me. I was too racy, I pushed the envelope, I crossed too many lines… Management tended to roll their eyes because I never said anything just to say anything; my comments were backed up with ideas and opinion. I am no shock jock.

So you can imagine the field day my co-host had when I said “that idea is really retarded”, live on air.

I love words. I make my living off them. I was describing an idea as underformed, underdeveloped and I chose the word deliberately; look it up. Oh how the crap hit the fan. I wasn’t even describing a person. A concept was… retarded… and I said as much in the meetings I was hauled into after the radio host took it upon himself to complain.

I stood up for myself and the issue was dropped. I love words. I know what words I’m using when I’m using them and I know what I mean when I say them.

That’s what we have to defend now. Because we don’t honour words enough these days – and our right to select the ones that best describe what we wish to communicate – ownership of them is slowly being taken people, people who show us more their own biases and prejudices than those of us using the words with fine intention ever do.

Words are yours to control, not a select group of people feeling offended. When you use them, know the intention with which you do, and be ready to stand by them. Otherwise, these days, they’ll be taken away faster than RuPaul can apply eyeliner.

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