Thursday, January 24, 2008

Words We Can No Longer Sing

Money for Nothing by Dire Straits came on the music channel today while I was cleaning the house. This is one of my favorite songs and I LOVE to crank it up especially in the beginning during the famous guitar riff. You know the one. I cranked the song so loud that I could hear it over the vacuum cleaner because I didn't want to miss it. I love it when Sting sings the backup vocals. It's fun to replace his line with "Don't stand so close to me" because, you know, it's the same notes.

Anywho, I proceeded to jam while I vacuumed, playing the proverbial 'air guitar' except it was my version of the 'vacuum guitar.' Lucian would wander around gittin jiggy with it (na na na na na na na nah) every so often too.

So, I am just singing along, and Lucian is looking at me like I'm a retard (oops, maybe I shouldn't say that word either) and all of the sudden, I noticed that they fudged one of the lyrics. What the!? I was being so goofy I didn't exactly pay attention to what word at first, but I knew something wasn't right. My ears were now perked. I heard it again.

The word they muffled was 'fagot' — as in "a bundle of sticks or twigs bound together as fuel." Oooooh, wait, I get it, they mean the OTHER 'f-word that rhymes with maggot' in this song. When I heard the "modification" they made to the song, it made me stop playing my 'air vacuum guitar' and stand there in my living room with a perplexed look in my face. Lucian just kept on doing his little baby dance.

keyword here: oblivious

In all of the years they have been playing that song on the radio, I have NEVER heard that word changed or removed or fudged over. I mean, it wasn't until the Steve Miller Band's "Jet Airliner" lyric "...funky shit goin' down in the city..." was made PC by using the word "kicks" that I even realized that they were singing the word shit!

I wonder how it is then that "Money for Nothing" went as the original for so much longer?

It really made me stop and think about how different life was back in the 80s. As tweens, my friends and I thought nothing of it to dress up like a hooker, I mean, Madonna, and sing songs about virgins ("Like a Virgin") and prostitution ("Call Me"), sex (just about every disco song that ever existed), masturbation ("She Bop") and various other topics that are taboo. And, we were just a bunch of gay, I mean, happy, kids having fun. No one was complaining about he said this word and she wore this outfit. Okay, well, they were but we were oblivious to it.

And I only learned about a year ago that "She Bop" is about, um, flicking the old coffee bean.

Times are really different now. The "N-Word" ranks right up there with the "F-Word" which is now the "F-Bomb" but still different than the "F-Word that rhymes with maggot" that offends boys who like boys. Nowadays, you can even get fired for using the "N-word." I am NOT proud of my upbringing when it comes to this, but I don't fault my family because it's how they were raised, but it took me a long time to train myself to not use phrases like "N*gg*r-rigged" or "see if you can 'Jew' him down on the price" because it was just common speak and we weren't even from the south! That alone proves that kids absorb what they learn around them, just like I did growing up. At least I recognize how wrong it is now, but some people just don't and that's how examples get made.

I just think it's interesting that I'm repulsed by the N-word and the C-word that rhymes with bunt cake, but before today, I had NO problems jamming loudly to a song that talks about 'boys who like boys' and monkeys who bang on bongos.

All I can think about now is how differently I see things now that there is so much controversy in the media over words that are used. It's even more magnified now that I have a child. I can almost imagine Lucian stopping me sometime and saying, "Mommy, what's a fagot?" (I'll tell him it's a pile of sticks.)

But then again, maybe I won't have to field these questions, because by the time he's old enough to ask, gangsta rappers will 'represent' and stop using the N-word and all the other bad words will be muted or changed on all of our favorite songs.

Right?

I'll just have to remember this while I'm singing along so I too skip over the no-no words and don't blurt out what the artist intended to be in that spot.

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