Friday, February 22, 2013

The Civility in Speech and Writing Committee Meets

Very clearly, the Joint Faculty-Student Committee Civility in University Speech and Writing Committee had a lot on its plate.  The barbarians were at the gates still; but using a more subtle approach!  No longer were many students still using non-p.c. terminology; as a matter of fact, the Publication and Blog Monitoring Committee reported very little in the way of behaviors to clamp down on: the q-word, the s-word, the f-word, and other linguistic no-nos went the way of the "Pineapple Jack" sleep dresses and the silver loafers of the 1980's, as well as the virgin pins of an earlier time when such creatures were rumored to walk the campus.  The drumming and rapping sets were tamed; something about the formation of a Christian Rap Club and the Co-ed Drum Circles de-fused these possible sources of dissention and inappropriate speech.  Still there was the vocal minority who, in insolent defiance of the wishes of alums and bottom line-oriented administrators, still spoke out in their opposition to college athletes.  But those were toothless bears as long as the football team was winning.

So what were the current worries of the committee?  

First, there was the burgenoning trend toward indecency in dress; but to make matters worse, how those improprietries were referred to sorely distressed the English faculty.  There was, for example, the creeping Hollywoodisms of "sideboob," "underboob," and "butt cracks"; totally barbarous terms to refer to breaches in civility and modesty.

The Dean of Modesty offered a proposal: forbid, under penalty of suspension for the first offense, expulsion for the second offense, any cleavage display of any type.  She suggested that the University could draw on the ground-breaking advisory given by CBS to the presenters at the Grammy Awards Ceremony.

Professor Jamieson of Marketing demurred, "But what about those gowns that the female students' parents allowed them to wear to their proms?  Are those only for back home?  Parents might object; and we might experience blowback from the local businesses if this is a factor causing the students to go home on weekends instead of spending time and money here!"

Dr.  Wilkins of Economics offered some alarming numbers, "At a bare minimum, this will result in a 60% more students going home per weekend than before; with a resulting negative impact on businesses on The Strip."   Where those figures came from also suggest that you can nail Jell-O to the wall.

Therefore, the emphasis shifted back to language.

Dr. Crenshaw of the English Department raised an important issue: maybe it's not the dress, but the terminology that is primarily offensive.  "We must consider, it's not primarily the garments, but the dysphemistic terminology that offends sensibilities.  According to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, language influences thought.  And this especially includes euphemisms.  Accordingly, let's include in our 'Proper and Improper Words and Style Manual' such forbidden words as 'sideboob,' 'underboob,'  'butt crack,' and the like.  But in order for implementation of this policy to be accomplished with maximum efficiency, the University needs also to propose desirable substitute terminology."

The Dean of Modesty, intrigued, asked for some examples.

An erudite student opined, "Well, we could specify that instead of "'underboob,' 'Australian cleavage' is recommended."

Professor Crenshaw inquired, "Should Australian be capitalized, or not?"

Dr. Wilson of the Sociology Department raised an interesting point: "I say that we leave it uncapitalized.  To capitalize that word might cause Australian nationals and Australian-Americans to take offense; but to leave it uncapitalized simply emphasizes the face that the cleavage comes from underneath."

The Dean of Modesty said, "Let's leave it uncapitalized, then.  That's one shrimp we don't need to throw on the barbie."

Example of australian cleavage

Example of lateral cleavage

What about "sideboob?  While that was regarded as a barbarism, it was more difficult to come up with a civility substitute.  However, being bright scholars well-versed in periphrastics, they came up with "lateral cleavage."  And they were satisfied.

No such problem occured with "butt crack."  The suggested term, "buttocks décolletage" was viewed as absolutely linguistically charming; and would serve appreciably to neutralize any dismay that the phyiscal display might cause.  As an indication of its quick acceptance, local plumbers' unions and the AP quickly embraced this term.

All members of the committee were so proud of their efforts that they bought souvenir sweat shirts emblazoned with Periphrastic Committee.  It was good for morale.


Anemone said...

I don't see why sideboob and underboob are words that bother people. Language evolves with time. I realize this is a satire but some people do worry about little things in language. It shouldnt be that big a deal.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

That's about what a typical committee worries about. Very much on target, Angel.

John A Hill said...

When I saw the pic in my blog feed, I thought it was Elvis' Girl Friday pic.

Descriptive words add a lot to the ability to develop the mental image. Underboob and sideboob tell us what, but Australian cleavage or lateral cleavage gives a better mental picture.

As always, an interesting post.
Have a grand weekend, Angel.

Leroy said...

Actually, I like australian cleavage and lateral cleavage! Good terms!

Duckbutt said...

I vote for those terms too. It's amazing how much time is spent on semantics by academics!

Bilbo said...

I have been considering posts on a number of linguistic topics, most of them dealing with political insult terminology ... but a post like this one would be much more fun. "Sideboob," "underboob," and "Australian cleavage" are wonderful terms that we should all embrace. I, for one, am always ready to embrace boobs regardless of what they're called. So to speak.

TexWisGirl said...

ha ha.

Randomly Rachel said...

When it comes to adopting this terminology, is it correct to say that people embrace them, or grope them?

Mike said...

Australian cleavage produced great results on google image search.

Grand Crapaud said...

I must say that australian cleavage is monumentally sexy. Please note.

Big Sky Heidi said...

I'm okay with boobs, including sideboobs. Great essay.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Thanks for your encouragement and kind remarks, my friends. I like to play around with language and find group processes always good to satirize.

Françoise said...

Pineapple Jack? I got one of those shirts at a flee market once.

Kristen Drittsekkdatter said...

Surely Austraian cleavage easily gives rise to indecent exposure. Anyway, too tempting for most guys.

Hell Hound said...

As underboob goes, that is timid!