Sunday, November 03, 2013

OMG, I can't believe I offended you

At the beginning of the summer, my wife and I took our grandsons and their friends to a weekly outdoor farmer's market and arts andcrafts fair in the South End of Boston, which hat runs from May through October. The kids loved the food trucks, the vintage goods store and the quirkiness of the crowd.

I chatted up the owner of a company called PeriodicallyInspired who was in her booth selling T-shirts, coffee mugs and other stuff that had various phrases imprinted on them drawing from letters on the periodic table. My wife bought me a black T-shirt with the letters O (for oxygen) and Mg (for magnesium) on it. Get it? OMG, the overused text shorthand for "Oh, my God" written in response to, well, something to which you'd typically respond "OMG." I thought the products and the T-shirt were clever.

It turns out, however, that I may be one of many who serve as a leading indicator that we are headed toward becoming a Godless nation.

In a recent column for The Boston Globe, Jennifer Graham, raised the issue of how we Americans have become cavalier about our use of God's name. Using OMG, she observed, is for some people "at least as vulgar as David Ortiz dropping the f-bomb at Fenway," something the Red Sox slugger did shortly after the bombings at the Boston Marathon finish line back in April. There are others, she observed, who find the word "jeez" offensive because it derives from "Jesus."

Graham adheres to what she describes as "the antiquated notion that a certain reverence and restraint is due the sacred."

I agree with Graham. It is good to be respectful of other's beliefs and not to tread on their notion of what is sacred to them.

If the intent of those using the OMG phrase was to be blasphemous or profane or to attack someone else's religion, that would be wrong. But it's a tough stance to take that OMG is any more of a misappropriation of God's name than those who invoke it as they enter into combat or a cross-country meet. Any use may offend someone.

But if I know that Graham or others are offended by something, is it wrong for me to continue doing that thing? Should I stop wearing my OMG T-shirt out of concern that I might run into Graham on the street? No more than it is wrong for me to continue wearing the leather shoes I know some friendly vegans I pass on the way to work find offensive.

If we truly want to avoid the possibility of offending anyone for everything we do, we should never leave the house. Even then, some might find that choice offensive.

The right thing is not to deliberately use a phrase or icon to persecute, silence or demean someone else. It's doubtful that OMG is any more offensive than "gadzooks" was in its day.

Without shame, I will continue to wear my OMG T-shirt and to chuckle every time I see the Ichthys fish, which began as an early Christian symbol, glued onto the back of my wife's car that has the words "N Chips" written within the body. No offense. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

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Anonymous said...

Jeffrey, it is clear Ms. Graham has failed to realize there are times when innocent abbreviations are the pinnacle of accuracy and innocence. Not every supposedly evil reference to the use of the word God is an intentional insult or has an evil purpose. There are times you want to say to some people, "lighten up". You had the common sense to realize that, so for that, I thank you!

Charlie Seng
Lancaster, SC

Sue Wacvet said...

I've heard as many people say "Oh my gosh" as "Oh my God." Why does the G have to stand for God?

When the annoyed get people to stop saying the "G-damn" phrase, I'll stop using "OMG."

I should mention that I'm a born-again Christian.