Wednesday, January 21, 2009

taking a beating over the rule of thumb

The Reader strikes back: kyle hurlburt of halifax rides to my 'rule of thumb' defence into today's metro.

'as a rule of thumb, i suggest people like jude billard should grow some thicker skin,' mr hurlburt writes, and i swear that's not my pen name.


  1. Ha! Look at the dialogue you've created. Fun banter, I say. Well, maybe not for the lady who thinks you (or the quoted offender) are a pig. But oh well.

  2. And I'd ride to your defence again. I was pretty happy when the metro agreed to post my editorial, even though it will fade to obscurity along with everything else.

  3. thanks, kyle! we all fade to obscurity, but at least we can grumble sensibly as we go.

  4. The point was not the use of the term, whether it has MORE THAN ONE reference in history or not. It was WHO was using it. A wedding planner is expected to help the happy couple plan their special day...not remind them of times when it was believed to be a husband's right to beat his new bride. That was my point...which clearly, you missed the boat on.

    And I do have thick skin, thank you very much. Perhaps you would prefer to see these old phrases come back into common use again, such as "wild as Indians" "blacker than Tobey's arse" and so on. At some point, social consciousness has a role to play in how language evolves or we would still be using the word "nigger" in everyday use.

  5. hi sky - i agree that sensitivity and intelligence about how we use language, and what it refers to, is good, but in my opinion, 'rule of thumb' is now completely unattached to any other meaning it might once have had.

    whereas 'wild as indians' clearly still insults aboriginals, rule of thumb does not still insult women - no one says rule of thumb with domestic abuse in mind.

    i'd compare it to an atheist getting offended if i said goodbye to him - that being a contraction of 'God be with you.'

    that's my two cents anyway!

  6. Boy am I late to the draw here. I would probably go even further, because I'm borderline libertarian. I'm opposed to censoring things like profanity because, in my opinion, the concept has little or no logic behind it. I'm even a little wary of censoring things like hate speech, but I'm willing to let that go... still, my main point was less the historical context of the statement and more "get off my right to speak of things". Context is more important, like our PPH Writer says... nobody meant it as an insult, which means it was harmless - if it did offend anyone, those people are ridiculous and I'm not shying away from claiming that. Intent in language is about the only thing that should concern anyone. Taking offense to it when used in a non-threatening context is a problem suffered on the side of those taking offense, not an issue to be raised with those speaking the words.