THE BLOG
08/14/2007 12:04 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Big Apple and the B-Word

It must be wonderful to live in the paradise that is New York City, a place so sublimely free of deadly dangers and life-threatening perils that its city government can devote itself to such niceties as which words its residents ought not to use.

First the city voted to ban the Noun that Begins with N -- the derogatory term for blacks that has been pushed out of public public speech but shoved its way into entertainment, chiefly rap music. A local NAACP branch even gave the word a funeral, coffin and all, as a show of hope that ugliness can be buried along with a word that is freighted with ugliness.

The city ban has not been accompanied by any enforcement measures -- police, for example, cannot slap a strip of duct tape across the offending mouth and effect an arrest. But so successful has this legislation presumably been that New York City Councilwoman Darlene Mealy, of Brooklyn, now wants to add the word ''bitch'' to the no-no list.

Now that the ''n-word'' has been thoroughly expunged from the vocabulary of of every resident of and tourist to the Big Apple, Ms. Mealy wants to build upon that, and ...

What? It hasn't? Informed sources are telling me that neither the legislation nor the symbolic funeral has managed to spell the d-e-a-t-h of the "n-word." Perhaps Ms. Mealy hopes that misery will love company and that two banned words will join hands and skedaddle out of town.

If the players in this would add a little Harry Potter to their summer reading, they'd learn at least as well as George Orwell could demonstrate that fearing a word gives it power, and banning it makes it more powerful still.

Look at how the word "queer" has evolved from an insult -- which it still is in some people's minds -- to a word that some gays embrace defiantly. They use as both a shield and a weapon, to make its original ugliness boomerang back on the person who hurled it so viciously in the first place.

Sure, it's difficult. Even scary. It might not work the first time, or the thousandth. But maybe ... eventually ... come on, try it. Say it along with me:

Voldemort Voldemort Voldemort.