#THEWORDBITCH: Kanye West and the semantic world

Kanye West kicked off a discussion on Twitter on Sunday with a hashtag: #THEWORDBITCH which hits on the use of language. It was probably designed as a way to push Lupe Fiasco’s great ‘Bitch Bad‘ track.

Lupe Fiasco – Bitch Bad from Gil Green on Vimeo.

On the surface level, the debate is the use of profanity in music. On first glance, this appears to be a hip-hop thing, but it isn’t.

If I look at Irish culture from The Pogues to Father Frank in Father Ted, profanity abounds. My Dad would describe a particularly hard job, whether fixing a Citroen clutch or dealing with rusted pipes as a ‘bitch of a job’. So its bigger than one culture or generation.

However the debate had an even deeper level; many of the respondents talked about the emotion behind the words:

There are then two thoughts that immediately lead from this for me:

  • Most people have at least some issues with understanding other people’s emotional nuances at least some of the time. That’s the reason there is 206,969 results in Amazon.com’s books selection on relationships
  • We are moving to communications platforms: SMS, email, Twitter, Facebook, Weibo, Kakao Talk etc. All of which have a distinct lack of contextual information compared to real-life interactions

What’s the most interesting about all this?

Our language – which is usually the part of culture that changes and morphs to adapt to trends doesn’t seem to have addressed this phenomena and instead has gone in the opposite direction.

I don’t know why that is, but it feels like we’re walking into a linguistic cul-de-sac and given how full swear boxes become, maybe part of the answer is technology that does a better job of emoting an electronic communication?