I'm a professor of medieval history, an Italian-American Catholic who grew up in the suburbs of Texas and only attended big state universities, but who currently teaches at a small liberal arts college founded by Norwegian Lutherans in the upper Midwest. Go figure.
I study medieval monks, who are much more interesting than you might imagine. In the past few years, I've branched out to write on non-medieval topics, like the history of Augsburg University for its 150th anniversary, coming soon. I'm also passionate about teaching. Check out this video where I talk about a crazy course I developed with some colleagues a few years back.
Memoir / Blog
Context is everything
The comedian George Carlin, famous for his critique of taboo language, performed this routine to explain context (starting at 1:05):
“They’re only words. It’s the context that counts. It’s the user. It’s the intention behind the words that makes them good or bad. The words are completely neutral. The words are innocent!
“I get tired of people talking about bad words and bad language. Bullshit! It’s the context that makes them good or bad. The context that makes them good or bad.
“For instance, you take the word [the N-word]. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the word [the N-word] in and of itself. It’s the racist asshole who’s using it that you ought to be concerned about. We don’t care when Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy say it. Why? Because we know they’re not racist. They’re [the N-word]!
“Context! Context. We don’t mind their context because we know they’re black …
“They’re only words. You can’t be afraid of words that speak the truth, even if it’s an unpleasant truth … I don’t like words that hide the truth. I don’t like words that conceal reality. I don’t like euphemisms or euphemistic language. And American English is loaded with euphemisms, because Americans have a lot of trouble dealing with reality. Americans have a lot of trouble facing the truth. So, they invent a kind of soft language to protect themselves from it. And it gets worse with every generation.”