For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect.
– James 3:1
Paula Deen’s well-publicized remark and her over-publicized attempts at apology remind us again that there are certain words one does not say.
In Deen’s case it was what editorial writers from The New York Times to The Augusta Chronicle refer to as the “n-word.”
But we have other words, equally avoided, that have risen to monogram status.
In fact, there is a whole alphabet of them.
Just go to the Google Machine.
There is an “a-word,” a “b-word” and a “c-word,” which refer to either body parts, spiteful women or both.
There’s a “d-word,” that is considered bad in filmmaking. It means your movie is as exciting as a “documentary.”
There’s an “e-word,” although I’m not sure what it is. I found a reference to it in a Kansas City Star story about the Missouri Legislature. It was never defined.
There’s an “f-word” and a “g-word” and an “h-word,” which is so common on TV it’s lost its ability to shock.
There’s an “i-word,” which I think The Associated Press and others suggest slurs “illegal immigrants.”
The “j-word” is not that bad and seems to refer to jazz music in Scotland. (Soulful bagpipers?)
The “k-word” refers to evil, ex-girlfriends. The “l-word” also involves women.
The “m-word” is a multitasker, often meaning “money.” However, I found a reference to former Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson apologizing for using the “m-word” on the House floor.He was referring to short people.
“N-word,” you know. But were you aware the “o-word” refers to obesity?
“P-word” is common when referring to bathroom breaks, but can be a slur against people from Pakistan.
The “q-word” means “quality” for the National Community Tax Coalition. It has other meanings, as well.
The “r-word” refers to people with mental handicaps. The “s-word” should be the “s-words” because there are a bunch of them – the mildest, I found, being “socialism.”
There’s a “t-word” – that CNN and others say refers to “terror” or “terrorists.” Something the White House is averse to admitting/using.
There’s a “u-word,” but it is perhaps the weakest on our list because it refers to a Samoan word for sex.
The “v-word” deals with vegetarians or vegans. The “w-word” came up on CNN and involves a derogatory term for Hispanic laborers. The “x-word” is defined as a made-up reference to nothing specific.
The “y-word” is a clipped slur against people of the Jewish faith.
And the “z word,” I discovered, deals with zombies, which is either hurtful to congressmen or those of us who keep electing them.
What can we say about all of this?
I return to St. James, who pointed out in the first century that the tongue is our most dangerous human element, able to destroy a great forest with a single, small spark.
I’m sure Paula Deen, no stranger to the heat of kitchens, would agree.