ERIC Number: ED355510
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 1992-Oct
Reference Count: N/A
Freedom and Restrictions in Language Use.
O'Donnell, Roy C.
Since freedom of thought and expression is essential in a democracy, censorship of language is rightly regarded as a threat to all other freedoms. Still, it is inevitable that certain restrictions will occasionally be imposed on language in America and in other societies. Restrictions on language date back to the Ten Commandments, which condemned both the wrongful use of the Lord's name and the giving of false evidence, and since then penalties for different kinds of utterance have varied widely. Profane language, for example, has often been penalized, but standards of taste change dramatically over time. Victorian social decency required the use of euphemisms for body parts and functions, and works of literature were edited to exclude words regarded as improper. Often new words were coined and became commonly used as euphemisms for such words. Despite these restrictions, epithets for ethnic and racial groups were common and socially acceptable. The origins of derogatory names for various ethnic groups have long and dynamic histories. Today, society is very sensitive to the use of these terms, as illustrated by recent social events and controversies. Simultaneously, the American public generally has become decreasingly sensitive to obscene or profane language. Many school systems are drafting and passing resolutions limiting racial, ethnic, or gender-related slurs. Public figures who dismiss such politically correct sensitivity find themselves the objects of wrath and chastisement. In the end, society must guard against restrictions that interfere with the free flow of ideas that are essential to the health and existence of a democratic society. (HB)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Historical Materials
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: First Amendment