2004-08-25

In Defence of Bastard

This word gets a bad wrap. It is written off by some as offensive, plain and simple. Those people don't understand the depth of meaning this word can have. I quote Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary:

bastard

\Bas"tard\, a.

1. Begotten and born out of lawful matrimony;
illegitimate. See Bastard, n.,
note.

2. Lacking in genuineness; spurious; false; adulterate; -- applied
to
things which resemble those which are genuine, but are really not so.That
bastard self-love which is so vicious in itself, and productive of so many
vices. --Barrow.

3. Of an unusual make or proportion; as, a bastard
musket; a bastard
culverin. [Obs.]

4. (Print.) Abbreviated, as the half
title in a page preceding the full
title page of a book.

All of these are valid definitions, and there are others as well. All
of these are acceptable and inoffensive in common English speech.

As being an illegitimate child carries a stigma, using the word per Definition 1 in reference to someone, especially to their face, would likely be taken with offense, as would simply calling them by the definition of the word. Sometimes the truth hurts. If it is not the truth, then it can be lumped in with any number of untruths you might say to intentionally hurt someone.

I bring this up because Jeremy has chosen to eradicate the word from the revised edition of his novella, Sans Hands. This is sad, as the word is used a number of times, quite effectively, and, to me, quite inoffensively. However, I think have figured out the matter.

You see, the book was written in such a creative flurry, and so long ago, that Jeremy has lost touch with the real meaning of his usage of the word. The answer lies in Definition 2.

The theme of people lacking in genuineness, being something other than what they seem, by design or as a result of imperfection, is one of the main themes of the book (another is fail miserably, be happy). This comes up numerous times, and can be referred to as the Theory of False Friends. In this no one is what they seem and no one is up front with their agenda. Nowhere is this clearer than in the lyrical adaptation of Sans Hands that is the songs of The Moon Is No More. To quote:

Don't let it bother you or weigh you down
Tell me lies and don't feel guilty

To wit:

We can make, we can make amends
We can be, the best of false friends, the
best of false friends

There is no doubt that their is disdain implied when the word is used to refer to one Jeffrey L. Allen. He is false and adulterous, and the truth hurts. I can't think of a word that better distills this character or these qualities than our magic word.


21 comments:

Gabe said...

I would have to agree. I helped edit Brock's short story, that he'll hopefully have up soon, and it contains the word "bastard" as well. I hope it doesn't offend.

Evan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jeremy said...

Here's the thing: its not so much that I find it offensive if used in the correct way. Its about how others will view it without this sort of background information. Believe me, it will not be taken lightly.

As for Donkey, I have one word: BAN!

Brock said...

Did my short story contain the word? I think so. Once, maybe twice. I'm keeping it in because it perfectly defines the character who is denoted as such. And the story will be up today, I promise.

Anyway, good summary on this particular...word. It's got meaning behind it, that's for sure. I think what's delightful is in the use of the word. One can immediately label it a "swear" word, but as Josh has shown us, it has an underlying meaning that can (in stories and songs of the same theme) be poetic.

Joshua Provost said...

I'm sick and tired of pandering to the illiterate. It haunts me. I do care what other people think, if they take the time to understand the material. Otherwise, no.

Maybe you should write under a psuedonym?

Gabe said...

You've been blog-spammed by Donkey! Out of control I tell you.

"Auntie" Lori said...

Uncle Gary (who is blog illiterate and wishes to remain that way) has two suggestions: 1) that you footnote the word and explain the usage so that only the truly illiterate will be offended. Tie the footnote and the concept of illiteracy into the theme of the book. 2) Many times within each chapter of the "novella" the "author" pauses to explain a motive or situation unfolding. Here is another opportunity to discuss the use of the word.

I agree with Uncle Gary. If the word is used in the context of definition #2 then the word should remain in place.

Joshua Provost said...

Good take, I think that's a great suggestion.

To further clarify my position, there is no doubt the word is used in a derogatory manner with reference to a number of characters. However, it is not used gratuitously or frivilously, and never in a vulgar context. It's an observation, not an insult, and that is clear from the reading.

Side note: This word is a kicker in some of the funnier lines in the book.

Joshua Provost said...

No one commented about the picture of Bryan. I guess I just slipped that one by.

Jeremy said...

A couple of points:

1. I really like Uncle Gary's idea. You can let him know that. It has been noted and will certainly be included in the book, either in footnote form or as an entire dedicated chapter. I have begun the editing process and I'm not sure how it will all shake out. Now, on the other hand, there's no way that Josh can convince me regarding other sections that will be edited, even if he does post something with the subject of "In Defence of the Ear."

I had an idea that I offered to Josh of posting the edited Sans Hands online in its own blog (sanshands.blogger.com?) one chapter at a time to solicit feedback before publishing. He did not seem too thrilled about this idea, however, especially since I suggested a pace of one chapter a week (currently, it is an 80 chapter affair). What do others think of this idea, though? It could help shake out some of the pit falls before it gets its second publishing.

2. I was going to mention the picture of Bryan, but I couldn't figure out if you were trying to say that Bryan was a definition #2 bastard or if he was supposed to be symbolic of someone in defence of something. He has that stern, punishing look; he has the oar to fend off those who dare challenge him. He is the Defender. Unless, of course, he's on the basketball court. Then that name wouldn't apply.

Gabe said...

What do you think the average number of pages per chapter is? Blogging it in that manner does seem like that it would be too slow. If you really want some people to read it and give you feedback, I'd say send the whole thing to those people.

Jeremy said...

Average is probably about 1.6 pages per chapter. I like me some short chapters.

And you know what Don Pedro would say: "Slow and steady wins the race."

"Auntie" Lori said...

i agree with Gabe. i would not put it up on the blog 1) because others would get to read it then they would not have to purchase it, 2) because i think that you should either send it out, as a whole, to a few people whom you would like to critique it, or send it out a couple chapters at a time to those particular people so they can get a sense of where you're going within the theme of the book. it would be difficult as a reader to critique this particular "novella" on a chapter at a time basis until maybe the 5th or 10th chapter, because of it's "as a whole" quality. some literary "chapters" can be judged all the way through each chapter's standalone basis. some of the chapters of sans hands, are standalone in that they really stand out because of a particular literary quality such as "use of description." this quality holds true in the "description of of the victim using his "hands" to gesture"(which btw i maintain is still in the top 3 pieces of descriptive writing i have ever had the pleasure of reading). however, i feel that this particular piece of writing really comes together in groups of chapters and again at the end. that's my view, you can take it or leave it. just, please leave me my hands in a loving gesture.

"Auntie" Lori said...

p.s. i noticed and appreciated the picture of bryan. i thought it was very appropriate, his sitting and thinking, but ready to either defend or take action. good use of art.

Lindsey said...

I merely thought you were calling Bryan a bastard in one context of the word or another...

Lindsey said...

p.s. is that the beat stick he is holding?

Joshua Provost said...

Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner! I believe that is the "mini beat stick" from Lois' back yard area. They come in all shapes and sizes.

"Auntie" Lori said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
EggNogg said...

I have to agree with most everyone who has posted. Writing the story on the blog would be giving it to everyone.

I think the target audience that it would apply to would be the likeliest to find it on a "Blog".

If that made any sense. Here it is another way >
The people that I think that would read the book, would probably be the ones that would find it if it were posted on a blog.

There I think that is better.

Lindsey said...

I didn't know the beat stick was reproducing.

Jeremy said...

Don't worry, Lindsey, the beat stick is in a safe place within the confines of my home. Its just waiting for you to come and visit. It misses you.