Friday, April 15, 2011

The F-word

Eight colleagues/friends organized a birthday lunch at O'Viet in Sunway Pyramid. Thanks, guys!

I happened to see this article in the Star (p W45) yesterday and thought it was bewildering. It seems that Luke Webster, a British tutor was given the sack for gross misconduct in late 2009 after Sydney's Mercury Colleges discovered he used a worksheet featuring the 'f-word' in its unedited form in every sentence with a class of adults. Actually, the exercise encouraged them to discuss its many meanings and whether the word was being used as a noun or a verb in each instance. Of course, the college authorities, however, argued that "we are not in the business of teaching profanity".

For those of us who know the 'f-word' would already accept that this particular word is in wide circulation, and that in today's context, the word is not necessarily "offensive". In fact, Webster did explain how sometimes the word can be offensive, but in other cases – e.g. as an expression of surprise – it had a more benign meaning.

Besides, a word that is deemed offensive yesterday may now be totally acceptable in today's world. That's how words evolve, right? I do think that as long as we do not punctuate every single damn sentence with the 'f-word' just for the sake of adding color or to show off any sophistication in knowing a vulgarity or two, is permissible.

Webster, in a written submission to adjudicator Fair Work Australia, said that he was really teaching his adult students how not to use the 'f-word', which isn't clear to many studnets who have native English-speaking friends, or watch Hollywood movies, and who tend to overuse the word.

There was a happy ending because the tribunal's senior deputy president Lea Drake found that while the use of profanity in the course of a lesson could be a valid reason for dismissal, Webster's termination was harsh, unjust and unreasonable.

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