Two Sides of a Bad Coin
How is that for a start of an essay? Does it pack a punch? Does it surprise you? Well, that is how Steven Pinker, a professor of psychology at Harvard, decided to start his article “What the F***” in The New Republic. It seems inappropriate that a Harvard professor would start any piece of writing in this way; however, as the piece goes on, his stance on cursing loses its initially crude air and becomes a more credible, scientific argument. By introducing cursing in a new scholarly light, Pinker is able to morph the reader’s initial repulsion to cursing into a thoughtful deliberation of its advantages and disadvantages.
This purpose is not evident from the start though because he is preoccupied with trying to pull the readers into reading his article. He does this by first unbalancing the readers with his unconventional beginning. He then mentions the contemporary example of Bono cursing as he accepted a prize for his group to interest the readers a bit more. Finally, he drops the expletives “asshole” , “cocksucker”, and “motherfucker” all in the same sentence and finishes brilliantly with “nigger” and “cunt”. Usually this flagrant lack of indiscretions would deter the general reader from venturing on, but in Pinker’s case, the controversial nature of his beginning is utilized to hook the readers in. In this way, it is a bit like a Michael Moore movie. All of them do not take the time to be subtle and are shockingly biased. Yet, all types of people still watch his movies: liberal thinkers are attracted to the freedom with which taboos are mentioned while conservatives gravitate towards them, itching for the chance to disarm the argument. Both are interested for completely different reasons but the end result is the same: everyone is interested in learning more about the content. Unlike Michael Moore though, Pinker does not continuously pelt the reader with fact after fact, story after story, in an effort to get...
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