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Oct 28

Written by: Greg Runyon
10/28/2010 12:58 PM 

I read a news account about the young man who was killed while videotaping the Notre Dame football team’s practice.  He was in a mobile loft high above the field, and there were very high winds that day.  He died when the structure he was in collapsed.  In an interesting twist on this story, the article quoted some of his last words, which he posted to his Twitter feed in the moments leading up to his death.  CBS News reported his final Tweets to be "Gusts of wind up to 60 mph. Well today will be fun at work. I guess I've lived long enough." and, "Holy (blank). Holy (blank). This is terrifying."  Of course, I suspect he didn’t actually write “Holy (blank),” I’m sure that was kindly censored for us by CBS.  If I were a betting man, I’d say he either used the “s-word” or the “f-word” instead.  I will warn you now that in a few paragraphs I will actually (horrors!) spell those words out for you, so if that’s going to bother you, don’t plan on reading this whole thing.  You’re safe for at least a couple of paragraphs, though, so stick with me here.

Isn’t it interesting that reading the tragic account of someone’s death is deemed to be somehow less offensive to one’s sensibilities than it would be to read whatever curse word that person may have used shortly before his demise?  Isn’t it somewhat ridiculous that some of the last words of this man who died far too young are deemed to be unsuitable for publication or broadcast?  This poor bloke was terrified, quite likely (and regrettably, accurately) fearing for his life.  The accident that killed him occurred within an hour of the “Holy (blank)” Tweet.

I wonder what the likelihood is of curse-words shortly before death.  I imagine that in accidental-death situations, it’s probably staggeringly common, yet we still want to act as if these select words are somehow unacceptable.  We set aside a relative handful of words as being naughty.  I’ve never been able to really understand that.

I think in particular in a situation such as this, where some of the final thoughts of a human being have been recorded for eternity, we should all waive whatever stricture we might otherwise have and let those words be heard.  One of this young man’s final thoughts was “Holy (blank).”  In fact, he was scared enough even to utter it twice in his final Tweet, yet we as a society are apparently too sensitive to read such words in print.

There are unspeakable horrors printed each day on newsprint (or as in this case, online).  The atrocities of war, the actions of a murderer and so forth are recounted for us, but when a young man who is about to die (and seems to know it) says “shit” or “fuck” (I warned you) or whatever it was that he said, we are to be protected from that.  I just don’t get that.

I disagree with you on principle if you think that all of those so-called naughty words that we dare not utter on broadcasts or in print ought to be so stricken.  I’m personally for all words being a-ok.  I particularly disagree with you if those words cannot be uttered in proper context during a news account.  Though I see it as a ridiculous double standard, I suppose I can accept that some of you (fools though you may be) find it inappropriate to show naked people on television (women would be my preference, beautiful, lithe…wait, what was my point?).  But if the nudity is contextually news worthy and not shown for prurient purpose, can’t it be shown?  I’m sure a breast or two has been exposed during a mammography or breastfeeding news story, and what’s wrong with that?  I see this young man’s expletive in the same context.  While you wouldn’t (I might, but you probably wouldn’t) want Brian Williams to open the NBC Nightly News with “It was a shitty day on Wall Street today, with the Dow plunging 500 points,” can’t you see the value in giving this young man’s (almost) last words a proper accounting?  I can, and now that I’ve so eloquently elucidated this for you, I hope you can too.

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2 comment(s) so far...

Re: Last Words

Hello Greg, I thought i should personalize my thoughts to the writer and his topic 'Last Words'. I'm clear as to why we can't say those words via LIVE on the air unless you want to tune in to LIVE FEED, (is there one available) where we can choose to listen to those words with permission to anyone in the room under 18. I'm not sure why as consumers we enjoy listening to someone slur words or show skin but it is the reality of today... i guess. I'm not going to propose to tell others what to listen to or watch in their homes but with respect to the death of this young man i feel it is necessary to hold back the words that might hurt someone, and under the circumstances may not have been used if he was in a different situation. Words are the highways we travel to communicate our feelings and ideas and i agree that in the right context we should share what is on our minds; let's just hope when news of our lives is broadcast, compassion will be used in the right time and place... agreed?

By rain<*>czech on   10/29/2010 9:56 AM

Re: Last Words

Compassion is of course called for. The world needs more compassion, not less. I believe compassion comes from real human contact, not the newspaper or the television or the radio or the Internet. Real compassion is hugging and holding these people who lost their son, and trying to communicate to them that he will live on via the wonderful memories his family and friends have of him. I truly hope they have people with them to do so right now.

That having been said, those words, among his last on this Earth and as far as I know his last public utterance, don't deserve to be censored. They weren't intended as hurtful toward anyone, and I see no reason why they would be hurtful toward anyone. Why is wondering whether he said "Holy Shit" or "Holy Assbags" better than knowing the actual words that were among his last? Now, had his last tweet been "I hate my parents for sending me to this university where I'm going to die in this windstorm," I can definitely see sparing them that. I think his excited utterance of a curse word hurts no one, but of course that's just my opinion.

I've been engaging people on this topic for years now, and I certainly have respect for those whose opinions about curse words differ from mine. I realize I'm probably outside the mainstream in terms of my liberal use of the more colorful (if you will) parts of speech. I understand that some people find those words tough to hear, and indeed if I know I am in the company of someone who feels thus, I try to adjust my vocabulary accordingly.

Setting out to offend someone with the words we choose is something I think we should all try to avoid; it's simply part of being a nice person to do so. However, I feel none of us has any particular right to compel the words of another to meet their standard of decency. I am offended by a great many things in this world over which I have no control, words among them. Every day in my mailbox this time of year, I receive some disgusting lie from a politician or interest group. The material they send uses words to distort reality. That offends the hell out of me because it supposes that I am an idiot who will be swayed by their BS. Do I think they should be prevented from using language in the way they do because it offends me? No, and though I do wish they wouldn't, I live in the real world and know that there is no way they will meet my standard.

Speaking of idiots (I'm rolling now, just go with me), as I understand it the word "retarded" was pressed into service back in the 20th century as a replacement for words like idiot, moron, imbecile, and so forth because those words had become offensive to folks of a sensitive inclination. Now, the word "retarded" is thought of as offensive, and many of us use those other three words with little thought.

Language is, as you say, a highway we travel to communicate our feelings. Highways are bumpy sometimes. We may wish that it weren't so, but there is no avoiding that reality.

Thanks for your thoughts on the topic. I'm glad you found it worthy of response!

By Greg Runyon on   10/29/2010 10:41 AM

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