Bad words and bad language
I find language very interesting.
Not learning new languages, I'm awful at that, but the power that individual words seem to hold.
The most obvious example being 'The N word'.
It's a word with so much baggage that most people are not even allowed to say it.
Languages shift and evolve over time. New words are created (selfie) and some words die off (yonks).
But some words change, and it's 'curse' words that I find most interesting.
Shit, for example, was a bad word when I was a kid, but no one really cares about shit anymore. They can say it on TV and radio pretty freely these days.
Fuck is not quite there yet, but I feel like it is getting there.
Cunt still has a long way to go. But is it ok for me to write c**t? We all know exactly what I'm saying…
Sometimes we substitute acceptable words for unacceptable ones. In Ireland you are allowed say Feck but not Fuck, and interestingly 'Shite' (shy-t) was always more acceptable than 'Shit', despite being basically the same word.
Some words are scientifically correct but seem more offensive than their 'bad' counterparts. For example, calling someone an 'Asshole' isn't that big a deal, but calling someone an 'Anus' drums up all sorts of horrible mental imagery that the former doesn't.
Then there a acronyms.
AF = As Fuck.
So someone might say 'That fortnight game is lit AF' and that's totally fine, but 'That fortnight game is lit as fuck' is not.
How about 'lmfao', 'fml', 'wtf' or 'ffs'.
They've all got the word 'Fuck' in there, but they don't feel as heavy...
What does it all mean?
Socially speaking, words carry a lot of baggage. Of course they do, we are social animals and words are a huge part of how we socialize.
But it's not necessarily the 'bad' words we need to worry about.
Words can be used to control, manipulate, oppress, distract and humiliate.
Sure, sticks and stones are what break your bones, but within words lays a more insidious sort of power.
Consider doublespeak - language that purposely distorts or disguises the truth.
For example, a company might be 'restructured', which actually means a bunch of people are being fired.
In the US the Department of Defense used to be called the Department of War. The latter feels a lot more appropriate.
Austerity is a word that I never really heard before the 2008 economic recession… apparently it's better to throw around a fancy word than say 'vital public services are to be cut'.
Is it collateral damage, or is it innocent people murdered as a result of military operations?
Is it a political contribution or a bribe?
Is it enhanced interrogation or is it torture?
Is it 'family values or is it prejudice against gays, unmarried couples etc...
Human traffic... What is that? It's slavery…
I'd argue that we should be a lot of offended by these words than the word cunt.
Or be offended at both, the point is that we should all take a step back and take an unemotional look at the language being used by the media, politicians, business people etc...
There will almost certainly be something interesting to think about in there.
(George Carlin has a great bit on the softening of language that's worth checking out)