Ho, Ho, Ho! [LINK]
My latest letter to the Globe:
While I appreciate Mike Brown's perspective on Don Imus's firing, on one point he's a bit misleading. He says that Imus "knows what those awful words mean -- he heard them when he grew up." No, Imus did not grow up routinely hearing the word "ho." In those days, the word "whore" on which it's based would have been reserved for more extreme situations, and was especially potent when hurled by a woman. (It certainly wouldn't have appeared above the fold of a respectable newspaper such the Boston Globe, as it did last week.)
That the word now permeates our language is thanks to rap music, where it's used so routinely as to drain it of its actual meaning. If you are a potential sexual partner, it seems, you are simply a "ho." It's unlikely Imus grew up immersed in such wretched language. His apparent sin is appropriating the current slang from outside his assigned context as an older white man. That scandals don't erupt each day such foulness tops the music charts reflects a racial taboo that doesn't make our response to Imus seem particularly sane.