Quirky is the new square?
You know, there is an interesting ethical discussion hidden here.
Personally, I think that intent is more or less impossible to prove. It's all inside a person's head, so there is no way to know, one way or the other. It's basically unprovable, and as such I don't think it's particularly useful to dwell on it.
Now, there might be external signs that can be used as evidence of intent. For example, apologizing after causing offence can be taken as an evidence that the offence wasn't intentional, but still far from a hard fact. So, it would be nice
if the offended party took your word at face value that it wasn't your intention, but it doesn't lessen the offensiveness of the words, and it's all up to the offended party if the want to believe the intent was sincere. Moreover, itt might be easier to forgive an offence if it wasn't intentional, but it sure doesn't negate its offensiveness, or the need for forgiveness.
I know it runs contrary to common sense and common mores, but the idea that "I didn't mean to!" can be used as a excuse to behave like an arsehole and never bear the consequence of it, doesn't sit well with me.
Now, as with many ethical stuff, I might have not thought it through, so please feel free to demolish my argument. It won't be the first time!
I agree that intent's very difficult to prove in terms of common morality, so I see your point. But barring an obvious history of transgressions being corrected and not learned from - or of just being an obvious ass - I think it's usually best to take people at their word. Though maybe that's just me of course.
I think at least to some extent there needs to be something more than just one person saying "I'm offended!" over and over. Using another example from the board, we've got an argument going on in TrekLit where multiple people are holding a grudge and claiming legitimate offense over something that others find to be non-offensive (I'm in the latter group, fwiw). Cultural norms about particular words have been invoked as explanation, that what seems rude and offensive to some people is just common parlance to others, so it seems like intent matters there at least to some people and that there's more to it - at least in some cases, though obviously not in all - than one person's interpretation.
Maybe it's just the position I find myself in in society, but I think if somebody offends me but genuinely didn't mean to (to the extent I can believe that), I'm the one that comes across as an ass to continue holding it against them once an explanation has been offered. It would be human behavior but not I think the better angels of our nature so to speak. Assuming, of course, that person doesn't continue the same behavior.
If any of that made sense.