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When is bad language bad language?

Faith Matterss:

By: Tim W. Callaway

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Apr 25, 2012 06:18 pm

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While travelling in the southeast U.S. last week I was curiously reminded of Alberta Liberal leader Raj Sherman’s caution regarding certain Wildrose political sentiments that “Alberta is not Alabama.”

The following newspaper headline in that southern bastion of all that is moral and decent caught my eye: “Alabama bans beer brand over ‘dirty’ name.”

Seems the members of the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board (AABCB) have decided to ban the sale of “Dirty Bastard” beer in the state because of the profane nature of the label.

Now, seeing as how our American neighbours are inclined to sell booze in every grocery store, drugstore, service station convenience-mart and Oshkosh b’ Gosh outlet that’s available, you might appreciate the board’s concern.

We can’t have BillyJoe and BobbiSue standing in aisle eight reading “ba-ba-bas-****” off cans of bubbly for fear they getsa’ thinkin’ theyz at that thar family reunion listenin’ ter Uncle Cleetus spinnin’ tales ‘bout wrasslin’ gators, reckon?

Well, as most of us know, such labels are precisely the kind of thing that can indeed prompt some Albertans to get riled up in a hurry and begin spouting invective about “society going to hell in a handbasket” or “just another indicator that the apocalypse is around the corner,” and so forth.

The fact is I hear enough of the limited vocabulary of many people today to comprehend why some people arrive at such conclusions.

But hang on to hear the rest of this story and ponder, if you will, what it tells you about that old reality that suggests something about truth being stranger than fiction.

Bob Martin, attorney for the afore-mentioned AABCB, claims “[retailers] rejected the brand because parents may not want young people to see rough language on the shelves.”

Such motivation would be noble were it not for the fact that, for several years now, Alabamians have been purchasing “Fat Bastard” wine and “Raging Bitch” beer off the very same shelves!

Ok, go ahead and finish giving your head a shake.

Foolish me, here I was thinking it was the word “bastard” that was offensive, only to learn that actually the offensive terminology apparently has more to do with “dirty,” “fat” or “raging” than with “bastard” or “bitch.” Or how would you explain this tempest in a beer can?

On the same flight where I was reading the Alabama newspaper, I began reading a very insightful new book by Jonathan Haidt entitled, The Righteous Mind: why good people are divided by politics and religion.

Haidt presents convincing evidence to argue that emotion, rather than reason, is the real key to understanding human nature.

Take a few moments to chew on that. Borrowing from the 18th-century philosopher David Hume, Haidt contends that, contrary to what most of us may want to believe about ourselves, reason is generally subservient to emotion.

So before we go scoffing and wagging our heads at those hill-billy Alabamians and their silly booze battle, take a look in the mirror.

When it comes to reasoning, we Albertans may not be as superior as Raj would have us believe.

Tim Callaway is pastor of Faith Community Church in Airdrie. You can contact him at


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