Have just been laboriously restoring my journal style and sidebar quotes, which LJ decided to remove. Luckily managed to get the quotes back by finding a cached version of the sidebar via google. But no matter how often I ask it for serif fonts, it doesn't seem willing to put the main body of text in one, so only the headers now look like something written by and for adults.
"The wisest and the best of men, nay, the wisest and best of their actions, may be rendered ridiculous by a person whose first object in life is a joke.'
"Certainly," replied Elizabeth -- "there are such people, but I hope I am not one of them. I hope I never ridicule what is wise or good. Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can."
- Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice
I was thinking grumpily the other day that too many people who could quote you Elizabeth's words at the drop of a hat fail to notice that not only does Mr Darcy also have a point; Elizabeth concedes it. Humour can be a good weapon to deflate pomposity and misplaced solemnity, but it can also be used, and often is, to belittle seriousness which was in its proper place and didn't need or deserve belittling. Replying to a serious point in a debate with a joke is a form of putdown; it is saying, in effect, that the point is not worthy of a serious answer. It's also frequently a good way for someone to conceal the fact that they've lost the argument, not to mention a way of being offensive and then avoiding comeback. There's something awfully juvenile about people who, challenged on something they've just said, reply "I was only joking"; it's a bit like ringing a doorbell and running away. And of course the question "where's your sense of humour?", addressed to someone who's just taken legitimate offence at something, is pure playground bullying, a way of putting the victim in the wrong. It may be easier to do in Britain than in most other places, because Brits can easily be made ashamed of seriousness.
(Why yes, this is a little rantlet inspired by someone online, though not in LJ, who's forever saying things like "I was only teasing", and derailing debates that were going somewhere with misplaced "humour"!) Seriousness isn't always either solemn or pompous; sometimes it's just, you know, the way grown-ups talk?
I can hardly credit that someone (in another place) is still saying "but I don't mean anything insulting by the word 'poetess'; I just use it as a useful way of indicating gender, and intention is what matters". No, darlin', because communication happens in two stages: when the words leave your mouth or pen and when they enter my eyes or ears. Whatever esswords like poetess and authoress may mean to you, Mr Man, to a woman they indicate abnormality: that poet=male and woman poet is something so odd and untypical that it needs a special word. It also indicates patronising insult, because it has constantly been used so. A poetess is Patience Strong, someone who writes verses on greetings cards; it is not Louise Glück. An authoress is Barbara Cartland, not Hilary Mantel. And when others frequently use words that way, you don't get to say "but I'm different; I didn't intend to be insulting so you mustn't assume I did". Because words take their colour from how they are generally used. "Idiot" and "cretin" were once neutral medical descriptions; they are now insults, whoever uses them and with whatever intent. That guy who got shot lately while waving a gun in the general direction of the police; maybe he meant no harm. They couldn't know, so they judged his intent by what they'd seen of others in similar circumstances, and so shall I.