I largely agree with Roy about this:
My only answer is this: language is my metier, and I try to use it to my best advantage. One of the best tools toward that end is the unexpected choice. Sometimes I put academic, literary, or other elevated types of language into situations that do not seem to call for them. (George Plimpton was a pro at this schtick. I remember him writing about Amateur Night at the Apollo Theatre, and saying of an act that was about to emphatically get the hook, "The crowd desired that he would be silent.")
Sometimes I go another way and use crude language as a crotch-kick against pretension -- as when I called this thick-necked Men's Rights blowhard a pussy. As for "cunt," well, it's just a fun word.
This response also plays to Ilyka's wider theme: the myth of Political Correctness. No normal person gives a rat's ass what any professor, committee, or City Council thinks of the use of any given signifier. At the same time, normal people know what offends and doesn't offend them -- and in many cases, it is not the specific words so much that make the difference as the way they are used. Consequently, most ordinary folks of all races would be able to understand and accept Lenny Bruce's "I want to introduce you to the niggers in my cabinet" routine, or Blazing Saddles ("Don't move or the nigger gets it!"), but would consider this white jackass, who thinks it's cool to say "I hate niggers" because Chris Rock said it, to be, well, a white jackass.
In general, it goes a long way toward overcoming any language sensitivity issues people might have if you endeavor to talk to them instead to trying to put something over on them. As long as I stick to that program, though I do consider all criticisms seriously, I feel I cannot go too far wrong.
Right. I get offended by the expression of repulsive thoughts, not the words used to express them. Decency, civility and politeness are all different things. You can politely express intolerant, sadistic ideas, or you can rudely express decent, humane ideas. We do the latter all the time here in Left Blogistan because we've been struggling with years of the straight-faced assertion of the truth and goodness of truly barbaric or moronic notions. In fact, it would be indecent to treat contemptible ideas with politeness, because politeness conveys respect. Similarly, I will not shake hands, share alcohol, or have a meal with some people, such as racists, even though these things are polite. If they find it rude, I'm glad.
Politeness is an ideology. It drains language of emotional content. It's that emotion that can be used to break through complacency and indifference. That's why the rightwingers are so focused on the use of naughty words by liberals - if they can get us not to express outrage, they're one more step down the road to winning. But it's not just conservatives who use this tool. People on the left confuse words with meaning, and so create categories of words which may not be used. For example, when people attacked me for writing "If she didn't have tits, [Michelle Malkin would] be stuck writing at Townhall.com", they focused on the use of the word "tits". If I had said "If she were a white male, she'd be stuck writing at Townhall.com" (because conservatives use her sex and ethnicity as a shield), no one would have blinked, even though it means exactly the same thing. And, unfortunately, there are liberals who latch onto this tool simply to attack others for their language when they can't win a substantive argument.
This is not to say that offensive language can't be used to express hateful ideas. But let's be clear about which is the problem. Being offended by language per se is a lazy, sloppy substitute for parsing meaning.