Social Question

DominicX's avatar

How can something always be disrespectful?

Asked by DominicX (28762points) March 6th, 2010

The recent discussion about swear words has shown me that some people believe that certain things are always disrespectful, bar none, no exceptions, it doesn’t matter who you’re around.

I do not agree with that at all. I think it completely depends on who you are around. Most people say it’s disrespectful to call adults by their first names. Well, what if the adult wishes to be called by their first name? In that case, I think it would be disrespectful not to call them what they want to be called.

Same goes for swear words and other offensive terms. I wouldn’t say those things in front of just anybody because I know that not everyone feels the same way I do about them. But if I am with my friends or family and they are okay with it, why would it be considered “disrespectful”? To me, “disrespectful” is completely subjective and variant to the conditions surrounding the activity in question. It isn’t an absolute thing that has no exceptions.

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32 Answers

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

“The idea that no gentleman ever swears is all wrong. He can swear and still be a gentleman if he does it in a nice and benevolent and affectionate way.”
Mark Twain – Private and Public Morals speech, 1906

“Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.”
Mark Twain – Mark Twain, a Biography

“If I cannot swear in heaven I shall not stay there.”
Mark Twain – Notebook, 1898

“When it comes down to pure ornamental cursing, the native American is gifted above the sons of men.”
Mark Twain – Roughing It

augustlan's avatar

@DominicX Can you give us a link to the discussion about swear words? I’d like to see that question, too.

I’m with you on this. It’s all about knowing your audience.

SABOTEUR's avatar

The answer, of course, is nothing is always anything.

Each of us do…or say as we see fit.

And make everyone else out to be wrong.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

“My swearing doesn’t mean any more to me than your sermons do to you.”
Mark Twain –
comment made to Rev. Joe Twichell, quoted in Mark Twain and Hawaii, by Walter Francis Frear

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

“There is nothing like the occasional outburst of profanity to calm jangled nerves.”
Kirby Larson, Hattie Big Sky, 2006

DominicX's avatar


I included the link, but the question really asks something different than what I was saying. It was just the vibe I got from some people’s comments in that question that seemed to be implying that.


Believe me, I feel the same way about it.

But I don’t care if you don’t. If you hate swearing and you don’t want to hear it, fine by me. But to imply that people who are comfortable with it are “disrespectful” people in general is just absurd to me.

On a related note, my friend grew up calling her mom by her first name, but not her dad. It’s not because she was “raised wrong”. It’s just different. Her mom obviously allowed it to happen and taught her that that doesn’t go for all adults. Same goes for something like swearing.

davidbetterman's avatar

“How can something always be disrespectful?”

It is in the eye (or ear) of the beholder.

Just because it is okay for you to swear around your friends and parents, this does not mean that it is okay with everyone.
Mr. Shiny Shoes doesn’t think it is ever respectful, and you think it is okay.

“And ne’er the twain will meet…”

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

I’m pretty sure abuse is always disrespectful if you’re looking for an example.

DominicX's avatar


Abuse by its very definition is harmful. That goes beyond “disrespectful” in my opinion. I see what you’re saying, but I was speaking more of social “disrespect”.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Disrespect is always disrespectful. Abuse is always abusive. Harm is always harmful.

DominicX's avatar


My point is that what one person calls “disrespectful”, another person doesn’t.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

Verbal abuse is always disrespectful is it not?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

The army relies on verbal abuse to shape up new recruits. They do this out of respect for the safety of their lives.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

That’s a rather indirect correlation.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Sometimes verbal abuse is used in comedy. But no real disrespect is ever meant by it.

tinyfaery's avatar

Disrespect depends entirely upon the situation. People have different ideas about what indicates respect.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

We would do well to learn ourselves as to the proper methods of offering respect to one another, rather than drowning in our apparent pity pools of disrespect for one another.

ratboy's avatar

Goddamn near everyone is utterly deserving of all the fuckin’ disrespect heaped upon him.

starshine's avatar

@ratboy , I kind of agree with you, i always give people my respect until they give me a reason to disrespect them, but at the same time, even when I don’t like people, I still try to be nice, but sometimes I just boil over!
great answer.

aprilsimnel's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies – I fucking love Mark Twain. I wish he were alive now.

@DominicX – You are correct. People like to think of things in black and white terms because it’s easier than actually having to think. Or ask. Or communicate. That’s just too many goddamn people to deal with. One might hear something that challenges their worldview, and we know how that goes. Oh, goodness, they may have been wrong! Ugh.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Disrespectfulness is entirely subjective, and based upon family upbringing.

CMaz's avatar

“How can something always be disrespectful?”

Majority rules.

MrsDufresne's avatar

It is the ”is always” part that is completely relative. In other words, no thing can be all ways at all, because in order for it to be always (all ways), it needs to be perceived identically by every brain on the planet, and that is simply, next to impossible.


You are right Dominic. When you use dirty or bad language amongst your friends or at home, and it’s the norm, it’s not “disrespectful” because your peers and family acknowledge your use of such language as normal and acceptable (to them). But once you take that into the context of people who are not familiar with that, and use it freely in public amongst people you don’t know or who are not your usual peer group, then it IS disrespectful. But I still continue to wonder why kids like to use such language amongst their friends and in some cases, family. Is it supposed to be cool? Does it facilitate communication without having to resort to “real” English words in the dictionary and not slang/vulgarity? Personally, I think it’s terrible to the ears, but that’s the way I was raised. Profanity is so common when people get angry, argue, or get violent, that I don’t want to hear it when I’m at home or when I’m enjoying a good time with my friends! There’s enough of such “uglification” (the word penned by Lewis Carroll) in the world without having to express it at home or amongst those you love in what you would deem ” okay situations”.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

The word “disrespectful” is often convoluted to mean something that it was not intended to mean.

Being disrespectful, should mean, that one exhibits and outward expression of intolerance towards the ways of others.

Yet somehow it’s being redefined to mean that my ways are judged inappropriate, and therefor my ways are thus deserving the tag of being disrespectful.

But if my ways are my ways, and they have no intention of expressing intolerance towards your ways, then how may we claim that as disrespectful?

Just because you don’t like how I act, you claim me as disrespectful? BALDERDASH!

I fear that all too often, people hide behind casting the word disrespectful upon others as a clever disguise to cover their own intolerance.

You claim me disrespectful, but only to mask your own intolerance.

SABOTEUR's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies lol…that sounds really profound, but on the real tip you know when the words that come out of your mouth are disrespectful. And if you didn’t know, I’m sure you’d find out when someone objects to something you said.

This gets to be very cute and intellectual online, but I’d venture to say there are some places in the world where they’d take that ”my ways” stuff to another level.

They wouldn’t quibble over the words “disrespectful” and “intolerance”.

They’d simply show you just how ignorant they can be.

mattbrowne's avatar

It was disrespectful to ask Rosa Parks to give up her seat. If you are young and healthy it would always be disrespectful to not offer your seat to an old and feeble person.

absalom's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES: ‘dirty or bad language’

There is no such thing.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Though I agree with you @mattbrowne, let’s not forget that Rosa was also exhibiting disrespect for the laws of that day. Technically, she never should have been in that seat in the first place.

There is a time and place to be disrespectful. I thank Rosa for giving us an example of when to express that disrespect.

mattbrowne's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies – We basically agree, but I’d prefer different wording. Laws violating basic human rights are illegal laws and can (or should) be disobeyed. There are many examples when the Nazis ruled Germany from 1933 – 1945. When people disobeyed these laws they were not exhibiting disrespect for the laws of those days. On the contrary they showed respect for human right, for when example hiding Jews (which was against the “law” of course). Less extreme but still a human rights violation were the segregation laws of the American south. Rosa Parks exhibited respect for basic human rights. That’s the opposite of disrespect.

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