Pod people: Presby-speak again

The meaningless drivel that passes for public language these days was the major theme of my chat last week with Todd Wilken, the host of Issues, Etc.  In our conversation broadcast on 24 May 2013, Todd and I discussed my article “Scotland the confused: Did Presbyterians back gay clergy?”, posted at GetReligion and talked about all that double-talk.

I led off my GetReligion post with the observation:

Something happened on Monday at the General Assembly the Church of Scotland — they appear to have become Anglicans. No — they didn’t change from a Presbyterian to Episcopal form of church government. They did something more Anglican than combining bishops with Calvinism.  They’ve accepted the sacred “yes/but”  Anglican doctrine of deliberate confusion,  and have adopted a policy on gay clergy that no one quite seems to understand.

What lay behind my observation was the news the General Assembly had adopted a new policy on gay clergy.  Same-sex relations continue to be placed in the sin column for the Church of Scotland — but individual congregations can opt out of this view and hire non-celibate gay clergy. The gay clergy bill must be backed by majority of the presbyteries and at this point only 35% are in favor. The issue becomes further confused as the Guardian announced this was a victory for supporters of gay clergy, running the headline “Church of Scotland votes to allow gay ministers.”

Two years earlier the Guardian ran a story about the 2011 General Assembly with the headline “Church of Scotland votes to allow gay ministers”, reporting the news the church of Scotland had voted to allow gay clergy. Problem with the headlines was that they reported what the Guardian wanted to have happened, not what did happen.

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Ho ho ho and Merry F-word!

On its Money section cover today, USA Today celebrates a business that’s using an R-rated word to market its products during the Christmas shopping season.

The headline in the print edition:

Urban Outfitters swears by naughty holiday catalog

The top of the story:

For Urban Outfitters, the choice of being naughty or nice in its 2012 Christmas holiday catalog was easy: naughty wins.

The edgy apparel seller has shipped out a holiday catalog that’s chock-full of naughtiness, including a $16 “It was f—ing awesome” photo album and a block candle that boldly spells out the f-word in wax. There’s even an $18 “Let’s f—ing reminisce” book.

Just a few years ago, Urban Outfitters might have received some serious, verbal raps on the knuckles from parents and protesters angered by the ultra-spicy language. But in today’s social-media environment, along with those verbal raps, it’s also receiving some surprising kudos from brand and marketing gurus.

“It’s brilliant, explosive, short-term marketing that generates buzz,” says Marian Salzman, a national trend-spotter and CEO of Havas PR. “It’s the right voice for the teen market.”

My first question for GetReligion readers: What do you think of including the majority of that word in print? Does the hyphen-hyphen-hyphen used in place of the missing three letters eliminate the shock value? Or would it be better to put, say, (expletive) in place of the word? Or  — as long as the nation’s newspaper deems the story newsworthy — would anyone advocate printing the entire word?

Speaking of newsworthy, do you consider this story such? Or does it appeal to the lowest common USA denominator?

The story is relatively short — about 400 words — and does not jump inside the Money section. So after reading the first part of the report, I was not overly optimistic that USA Today would bother to quote anyone with concerns about the, um, “ultra-spicy language.”

But to my surprise, the story proceeded to quote both a marketing expert and a Christian activist critical of the approach:

Not everyone is impressed.

“It’s all about getting up on Instagram or someone’s Facebook page,” brand guru Peter Madden says. “But this kind of marketing really isn’t so rebellious. It’s just kind of stupid.”

Worse than that, says Monica Cole, director of the activist Christian group One Million Moms, “it’s tasteless and vulgar.” Her organization, which is affiliated with the American Family Association, isn’t calling for a boycott but is asking its members to think hard before purchasing any Urban Outfitter products. “They’ll be losing business from conservative families,” she says.

Is that enough of the “other side” of the story? In a report this concise, probably so.

At the end of the story, I learned something new (sarcasm intended):

Specifically, to today’s teens, the f-word doesn’t even mean what it means to most adults, Salzman says. It no longer even has sexual connotations, she says. “It’s almost a synonym for ‘give me a break.’”

Would I sound like an old fuddy-duddy if I responded, “No, give me a break!”

Image via Shutterstock


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