The Meaning Behind the Message
I was talking to two friends of mine after a hard day in the park of running around frantically after our under-seven kids. Our children were finally locked in our individual cars, dirty and exhausted, and we were sitting down on the curb relaxing for a brief moment before we had to wind up again for the ride home.
Yes, weve been reduced to saying, S and D and B and A and even (gosh forbid) F." We, as adults, are going back into childish word-games, trying to convince our sons and daughters that there is actually no explicit crude speech in the English language. If they do learn these horrid, ghastly words, we want them to forget them ASAP. Yet we praise our children for learning vocabulary. It doesnt make sense.
Or does it?
Another friend of mine taught her boy the alternatives to the cuss words rather than the real ones. For example, the little boy is saying Oh shoot! My frigging shoes are gosh darn muddy! Since hes five, its still suitable to think its cute. Everybody is happy with his language but I know better: hes a sailor in disguise. As he learns the real words (yes, as soon as he hits grade school), hes only going to trade the substitute words for the real things.
Does it matter?
Well, for my friend, probably especially since she also has two more children who look up to this sailor in admiration and wonder. As soon as they learn to talk, theyll probably imitate him.
So are there are good words and bad words? A lot of the populace say yea: good words are everything but the dreaded thirteen bad ones (you figure them out). But why are they such loaded pistols? After all, words are words. A long time ago, shite (Old English) could be used in well-mannered company it was the same as bowel movement is today. Faggot (Italian) was a bundle of sticks. Fuck, some say was either a modification of fuker, a cloth maker, or fulcher, a solider. It wasnt, however, the etymology of Fornication Under Consent of the King or For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. And bitch has always been used for a female dog. Etc.
In other words, I could say, in polite conversation, that the little fuker picked up a faggot and a bitch before taking a shite.
Nigger," the most unmentionable word in the English language at least in America is only unmentionable for white people (and Hispanic and Asian as well). However, I hear black men saying the word in passing in a very friendly fashion to other black men.
Its only your concept of the word that makes it taboo.
Turning the subject around slightly, words in a different language that you dont understand are empty as well. Kai Tae sounds like a beautiful exotic name to me. However, in Tongan, it means eat shit." Oghrash sounds like gibberish in the English point of view, but in Azeri, it means motherfucker." Ma nu lun sounds like baby talk, but in Urdu, it means My dick in your mom."
Whats my point? Poetry and prose, if worked correctly, are incredible things because they liberate ideas. Lawrence Paros, the top etymology book author, commented, I don't think there's really such a thing as a bad word. What really upsets me is bad usage. Not bad grammatical usage, but when language is not used to really convey information or tell the truth or to touch on our humanity, but when language is used to dehumanize, or to obfuscate or to cloud our minds
Both children and adults should learn how to wind words all words correctly. The word is used for the point of the message, whether that message is banal or thrilling or even offensive; the idea has already been formed before the words get uttered. Thus, if the children understand the right and the wrongs of the meaning itself, then you neednt worry about the words.
You miss the point when the word takes more relevance than the concept behind it.
What about you? my friend asked me, have any horrible stories for us before we haul our respective asses and those of our children home?
Hmmm, I said. Did you know that the word ass wasnt originally from an ass as in donkey but always ass as in buttocks, usually on an animal and not on a person? Instead, it was the word ors in the Indo-European which turned into aers in Old English, then arse in modern England, then ass in America.
My friends stared at me. Then we stood up, groaning and moaning. Time to go home.