Vulgar Language

A friend of mine was telling me about her new job, “I’m the only one in the office who is a Christian. But I think I’ll like working there.” I asked her how she knew she was the only Christian. Religious census on her first day of work? A round of heart-to-hearts?

“Well, the rest of them swear and stuff.” She said.

Over these last two years I’ve started swearing recreationally and when it’s appropriate, and I’m a Christian. So I have a vested interest in my research on the morality of swear words; I’d like to keep using them and be doing the right thing. I searched for the Bible verses the anti-swearing sector (ASS) use to discourage Christians from swearing (cussing, cursing, etc.). The article “Christian Cursing” at biblebelievers.com lists verses in Matthew and Titus. The Matthew one was especially compelling to me:

"But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." (Mat. 12:36-37)

You could call this the writer’s commandment. Writers respect words and language. Good ones make their words do work and carry meaning; idle words have no place.

Biblebelievers.com and some other ASS sites warn against “falling into the language of the world,” and I wonder if words will justify us based on their content or form.

The infamous round of four-letter words in the English language have landed on the list of profanity because in 1066 they were vulgar. Vulgar meaning common. The Norman conquest of England meant the ruling classes spoke French while the lower classes spoke Anglo-Saxon (sometimes called Old English). [Note: villain is similar to vulgar in that its negative meaning derives from social connotations rather than moral ones. Ville, in French, means city. Villain is a city dweller.]

The presences of Anglo-Saxon and French existing together explain the word variety in modern English. French words in law, government, religion, and high culture took the place of the A.S. equivalents. Words for live animals that the peasants worked with have A.S. origins: cow, pig, deer, etc. Their cooked counter parts have French origins: beef, pork, bacon, venison, etc.

Shit, bitch, ass, and hell (among others) also have A.S. origins. The people who spoke these words were probably from the lower classes.

David Foster Wallace talks about, among other things, sub-dialects in his article Authority and American Usage, “There are innumerable sub- and subsubdialects based on all sorts of things that have nothing to do with locale or ethnicity — Medical-School English, Peorians-Who-Follow-Pro-Wrestling-Closely English, Twelve-Year-Old-Males-Whose-Worldview-Is-Deeply-Informed-By-South-Park English — and that are nearly incomprehensible to anyone who isn't inside their very tight and specific Discourse Community (which of course is part of their function).” The way (or ways) we talk is determined by the groups we are a part of and determines the groups we will be able to join in the future. Not ever swearing is a church-goers shibboleth, at least in general. That’s why my friend assumed her coworkers were not Christians; it wasn’t because swearing is a sin and Christians don’t sin. The pop-Christian community goes from being wary of shit to believing all shit is bullshit and will damn you to hell. A Christian sub-dialect is fine.

But it is limited.

Speaking only pop-C sub-dialect makes it harder to make friends outside this group. I wonder if this is why some parents ban swear words – not so much because swearing itself is bad, but because they don’t want their children to associate with the wrong kind of people. With a limited number of sub-dialects, kids can’t associate with any crowds but their own. It seems to me that Jesus lived with more concern for the out-groups, the ability to meet with anyone, and inclusion than for vocabulary. Just saying.



Casey’s bar on Monroe Street is full of wrap-around couches. The tables are black, the floor is black tile, and the walls are crimson lit by weak gold lamps. At the table next to me are four thirty-somethings. They’ve had a couple of drinks and already have those far-away grins. One man’s wearing over-sized NFL gear and the women’s pants fit too tight. Up front, a woman in a black cowboy hat dances to somebody singing karaoke. A light pink shirt covers her cascading tummy and is tucked into her jeans. She doesn’t dance wildly – it’s more like she’s happily and comfortably at home.

And that’s the thing about Spokane – it’s not dancing for you.

There’s nothing about the way Spokane looks or its culture that will make you pay attention. I grew up living in the foothills of Pikes Peak – nine degrees south and 5,000 ft higher than Spokane. The Rocky Mountains and the intensity of the Colorado sun confront you. It’s like coming out of a long tunnel and gulping for air. Seattle also confronts you with its tall reflective buildings, winding exits, and deep green trees. And the Sound, going from light blue to steel grey, catches the city up in itself. Both places demand recognition for their beauty. Colorado shows off with its sunshine and clear air, and Seattle does the same with its moodiness and narrow streets.

But Spokane tends to be dark for five months. The sky matches the asphalt – all slate except for the half hour at dusk when the clouds light up pink and the gold street lamps come on. The old brick industrial buildings let restaurants and offices gut them and move in. Smokestacks stand unused.

If you go a few minutes south of downtown, you run into massive silos, the only buildings with curves. One to the east on Market has graffiti of Obama and McCain looking like buddies.

A couple of minutes towards Argonne open up into wheat fields. After harvest, the rolling fields glitter like Rumplestiltskin’s gold, and the power lines stand like resting giants. The fall light is so long (The sun is so low in the sky that the light goes through a lot of atmosphere.) that everything is red-shifted. Blues and greens hardly show up – the pine trees look black.

Spokane doesn’t care what you think. It’s not going to lose twenty pounds and put on a miniskirt. The brick sits through snow that won’t melt and doesn’t hear complaints. It’s fine with its Monroe dive bars and getting dark at 4:30. As long as you’re expecting it to impress you, it won’t.


Grammatical Snickering

An unfortunate misplaced modifier by Jason Aldean:
"Well, you can see the neighbor's butt crack nailing down his shingles."

George Strait shows the importance of punctuation:
"you'll always be a fire(.) I can't put out"


A Captivating Question

In the past two weeks i have watched two full seasons of Everwood. (the number of wine bottles consumed and pounds gained in that time period will remain unmentioned.) Everwood was a TV show that somehow managed to stay on the air for four seasons. It reminded me of that girl who only looks "pretty" because she wears too much make-up. The WB's Thursday night hit blushed and mascara-ed and covered up real life with scripted, pristine, need i say unrealistic conversations between characters to depict normal relationships. there would be a fight between a father and son, and both of them would say exactly what real people think about after the actual argument. While the Everwood fakers get to hear cheesy piano music when making amends and saying something profound, real people are alone in a heap of anger thinking over the conflict and say, "oh dang i should have said...."

yes, i am pathetic. but don’t judge, your ‘between college and real life’ story could be just as lame.

i am embarking on a time (which many of you can relate), of having a degree and not having an income. obviously a bad combination. so this afternoon between completing mind-numbing job applications and receiving the occasional brief but polite rejection from job prospects; i will attempt to amuse my brain by tackling a question that has haunted me for some time.

Why is it that knowing God has become a gender specific pursuit in contemporary Christian thought? I walked into Christian Supply and found books like, "Bad Girls of the Bible", "Lipstick Grace-- Glimpses of Life, Love, and the Quest for the Perfect Lip gloss", and "Wild at Heart-- Discovering the Secret of a Man's Heart." The idea that women and men understand God in different ways is not a new thought. That fact, however, doesn't provide any comfort when I find three rows of bookshelves dedicated to how Annie Dugas, a woman, must know God.

Oddly enough, there weren't any shelves advocating men's discipleship. Apparently they don't need any guidance. or they have their wives to fill them in on all the details. Don't forget to pick up a copy of "Reading your Male-- an Invitation to understand and Influence your Man's Sexuality."

despite my frankness, i do not claim to possess the answers. but these are the facts: these books are selling because they hit a deep, real part of the human (not just Christian) experience. they are attractive because they seek to make us happy. And sadly, many of them do not preach the gospel.

I decided to put my money where my mouth is. I read through John Eldredge's best seller, Wild at Heart. I did not set out with any specific agenda. i did not go through it only to find where it sucked, how men suck, that women are just as good as men, etc. that was not my point. many people have already done that and it is simply annoying, useless, and well, cheap. i read through the book to understand it. i wanted to know why it is so important for men (in this case i say men, i would've used women if i was talking about a book directed towards females) to be able to love Jesus in a way women cannot.

Eldridge asks, “”Where are all the real men?” is a regular fare for talk shows and new books. You asked them to be women, I want to say. The result is a gender confusion never experienced at such a wide level in the history of the world” (7). I don't know where he did his preliminary research, the extent of his academic background, (specifically in theology and/or psychology) etc. He continually makes bold statements that amount to his own personal perceptions of truth, and lacking any outside, evidential support. His claim that men need something special and distinct from women to be able to truly be themselves derives from something other than the gospel. He had a bad relationship with his father and is processing through that tragedy by watching too many Hollywood films and writing a testosterone-filled self help book.

As for me, when scanning the female books that try to "meet me where I'm at", i confidently conclude that i don't want to read about lip gloss. i don't like lip gloss. my hair gets stuck on my lips and then my hair becomes greasy. More importantly, i don't want to hear a gospel where men cannot be active participants. The message of Jesus and the life that he calls all his disciples to lead, male and female, is the same. the notion of separating the understanding of the men and women is dangerous and misleading. it assumes that men and women cannot relate to Christ on the same level, thus making true community, the church, more complex and challenging than it already is.

Yes, men and women are different. it is great. one has a penis and the other a vagina. being a women does have an affect on how i understand relationships and the world around me, but it isn't the defining factor. Jesus himself seemed to spend more time bridging the gap between men and women rather than dividing them further apart. i believe the attractive aspect of this book, and other gender specific books is that they give men and women something to grasp. A formula drenched in scripture that is easy to hold onto and clearly defines their identity. We all want answers, encouragement, and bullet proof knowledge explaining who we are. it seems as if Genesis 3 is repeating itself all over again.

Jesus simply asks people to follow them. By obeying Him and putting faith in Him they get to know his or her heart. being a male or female holds little weight under Christ's redemptive pursuits.

if you think I'm full of bull and you stand by Elredge's view of difference between men and women, fine. But here is one example that i honestly pray we can say together that this message is in no way pointing to the gospel. John Eldredge is talking to his youngest son, Blaine:

"'What's wrong, Tiger?' i asked. He wouldn't say, wouldn't look up. 'What happened?'... Finally the story came out-- a bully. Some first grader poser had pushed him down on the playground in front of all his friends. Tears were streaming down his cheeks as he told us the story.
'Blaine, look at me.' He raised his tearful eyes slowly, reluctantly. There was shame written all over his face. 'I want you to listen very closely to what I am about to say. The next time that bully pushes you down, here is what I want you to do-- are you listening, Blaine?' He nodded, his big wet eyes fixed on mine. ' I want you to get up... and I want you to hit him... as hard as you possibly can.' A look of embarrassed delight came over Blaine's face." (78)

yikes. it is important to take every word someone says and compare it to the rest of their message. is the message pointing to Christ? then listen to it with everything you've got. real, constructive wisdom can be found, even in Christian Supply.

Eldredge, John. Wild at Heart-- Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2001. Print.

"Bad Girls of the Bible" by Liz Curtis

"Lipstick Grace-- Glimpses of Life, Love, and the Quest for the Perfect Lip gloss" by Nancy Kennedy

"Reading your Male-- an Invitation to understand and Influence your Man's Sexuality" by Mary Farrar


Because I play Word Challenge too much...

by: Peter Pereira

If you believe in the magic of language,
then Elvis really Lives
and Princess Diana foretold I end as a car spin.

If you believe the letters themselves
contain a power within them,
then you understand
what makes outside tedious,
how desperation becomes a rope ends it.

The circular logic that allows senator to become treason,
and treason to become atoners.

That eleven plus two is twelve plus one,
and an admirer is also married.

That if you could just re-arrange things the right way
you'd find your true life,
the right path, the answer to your questions:
you'd understand how the Titanic
turns into that ice tin,
and debit card becomes bad credit.

How listen is the same as silent,
and not one letter separates stained for sainted.

A Fashion Freedom: How I Can Now Resent Fewer People

Confession: I dislike some girls because of the way they dress. I know that’s pretty unusual. But it’s a conditional dislike based on the way I’ve managed to dress myself. This is how it goes:

I have good grooming spells that usually last between one and two weeks. I do my laundry and fold it. I wake up early enough to shower and straighten my hair, I pick clothes that go together, and I look cute. (During these well-groomed periods I also spend a good amount of time looking in mirrors, and I try to catch glimpses of myself in the partial reflections of windows.) I think well of other groomed women at my humble scholastic institution when I am in this phase.

These phases are usually separated by about eight weeks of the I’m-tired-have-been-drinking-too-much-wine-and-coffee-staying-up-late-singing-songs-to-myself-the-washer-is-overflowing-onto-the-floor-does-he-like-me?-I-am-not-a-size-two-damn spells. I tend to resent those women who, by all appearances, have straightened and curled their hair in nice big ringlets. They have lots of matching articles of clothing (and attending trains of men), look like they’ve been sleeping on cotton candy, and smile a lot. And I hate them.

But I was thinking the other day, it’s not Candace’s fault that she looks darling (Well, maybe that is her fault, but it’s possible she was raised by kittens and can’t help it.) and that I have decided to dump all my laundry on the floor and am trying to avoid the shower because it doesn’t drain properly. She doesn’t deserve how I dislike her for being cuter than me.

And I realized how to get out of this two-on-eight-off conditional dislike cycle. I don’t have to be cute.

Cute is the prevailing fashion umbrella for women. The goal of cuteness is to look similar to infants – big eyes, round head, small frame, soft skin, no body hair, etc. Social characteristics like being affectionate, helpless, playful, and innocent also contribute to cuteness. It is so ubiquitous that it’s easy to forget that other umbrellas exist.

I’ve tried to fit various looks under cuteness and have ended up in contortions. For example, when I’m in my slob or hard-working-student phases, I’ve tried to look like a cute slob, etc. And it’s much better to look like a determined slob than to look like a slob who is trying to be fetching. Other people will say, “She’s making a bold fashion statement in her sweatpants and t-shirt with the pit stains. Good for her.” And I won’t have to hate girls who are cute, because we’re aiming for different looks. Like apples and oranges.

Here are some other umbrella looks that I have thought of:

Smoking hot (or hott, I suppose. I’ve never been a huge fan of needless additional letters): this look could also be called slutty depending on degree. The nice thing about removing this from under the cute umbrella is that 1) you can remove all your hair barrettes and embroidered butterflies. And 2) you don’t need to both look smoking hot and have a winning personality. That just confuses everyone.

Athletic: You don’t need to apply make-up before going to the gym, and you can wear shorts instead of yoga pants. You can also cut the sleeves out of your t-shirts. Make the arm holes really big so that if you get shot at from the side you run no risk of putting unintended holes in your shirt.

Hippie: don’t shower or shave and eat food that is good for you and from the ground. A close look to this one could be Bohemian.

Ryan Henderson: Once I put together an outfit based on what I remember my friend regularly wearing when we were in elementary school.

Pretty much, if you have a name to describe you look, you are ready to go. The outfits should have some sort of unity and intention. They need not be cute. Go, and be free.


Commencement Address to the Graduating Class of 2009.5

Thank you for electing me to speak at this most momentous occasion. You must think I’m a smart and accomplished person. I’ve been thinking that for years, and so it warms my heart that you agree. …oh my, the cheering deafens me.

I am going to give you four pieces of advice: two general and two relational. The first, use the public library. If you really love to read and not just buy books or own an impressive collection, it is a perfect place. The books are free. And there are movies, magazines, and music too.

My second piece of advice is to say yes unless you have a good reason to say no. Have “yes” be your default answer. “I just don’t feel like it,” is not a good reason to say no. The more you say yes the greater your chances are for having an eventful and involved life.

Three: This may contradict number two somewhat, but it’s good advice anyway from what I can tell. My advice is to keep your pants on. I’ve watched enough Grey’s Anatomy to know. Unless you are fairly certain that it will be a good thing to sleep with someone, don’t. This is especially good advice in small communities where it’s likely to run into your lay repeatedly.

My fourth and final piece of advice is one that every relationship-help book ought to include. Do your dishes. Whether you live with roommates or a spouse, simply pulling your own weight and cleaning up after yourself will go farther than any blend of chemistry.

It’s no “secret to a man’s soul” and it may not make your lives purpose driven or your waist smaller. Sorry about that. But if you want to read things that promise you that, I would refer back to piece of advice number one.



There’s a problem with gym class. The first time I had to change for one was terrifying. There were girls in middle school who would eat you alive out of boredom. The last thing I ever wanted to do was change in front of them.

The first time I was old enough to change in the women's locker room at the Y, the sight both horrified me and created a strange fascination. Huge women were standing naked in the aisles. Some were talking to one another! Their arms were like giant sausages wrapped in old paper lunch sacks; their skin hung on their backs like lava flow. My mom explained to me that when you mature you don’t mind changing in front of other people.

Swimmers, I guess, are more mature than I am. I try to figure out what time swim practice gets out so I can avoid using the locker room. Swimmers stand around with their suit pulled down to their wastes, and I’ll explain the problem with that in a second.

In the locker room after water aerobics, Elise noted how convenient it would be if we were all more comfortable with our bodies. There would be no more holding a towel in your teeth while struggling to put each leg into its correct leg hole. No hopelessly getting tangled in your bra/swim suit while trying to keep your boobs covered. One could get properly dry without falling over.

But the problem is not the lack of body-image comfort. I don’t mind running around naked, but unlike the ladies at the Y, I do not want to subject my peers to that. Boobs are ugly. They look like cycloptic creatures that have been accidentally caught upper-terrestrially. They prefer damp dark caverns… something out of a Tolkien novel. There’s just no way to be comfortable with them.

I excused myself from WA class to go to the bathroom. The swimming class before us was changing. All three stalls were full. I was getting impatient. They were taking forever, and no one was even using the toilet. Three girls were stealing my chance to go to the bathroom by changing in the stalls. My class was going on without me and I didn’t want to miss 15 minutes waiting for the bathroom. I was thinking about how stupid girls are – using the damn bathroom to change. I left and had to hold it the rest of class.

I can see no solution. Boobs are the problem with gym class.


Found on Delta Flight:

"Next time you're sitting here, it could be on us."