WARNING: There may be words, or the suggestion of words, in this post that you may find offensive. My purpose is not to offend, but to open a line of thinking.
“Mrs. Turner, you said the “c” word!”
The young man was indignant. I stopped, hit “rewind” on my brain, and scrambled to figure out what “c” word I had uttered. Several unpleasant words I knew I hadn’t said came to mind before I realized the source of the offense. I’d said “crap” in reference to something about the lies of the enemy.
I attempted to continue, silently wondering when “crap” became a bad word, and if there were other bad words I had yet to learn.
|Photo by Tuassi via Flickr|
What makes a word—a collection of letters jumbled together to represent an intelligible sound—a “bad” word? When does a word go from being merely a neutral word to being a cuss word, a curse word, or profanity? If the transformation of a word from a “good” word to a “bad” word is related to its meaning, in which case “poop” and the “s” word would fall in the same category as “crap”? Why, then, are the words “stool,” “dung,” and “excrement” considered acceptable? That would mean the word “urinate” is OK, but “piss” is not, and “pee” is questionable. Hmm. Logically, that line of reasoning is about as solid as a fishnet stocking.
Perhaps it’s related to language. The words “butt” and “buttocks” are considered impolite by some, so they use “derriere” instead. Translating a “bad” English word into French makes it acceptable? Does that mean the use of British, French, or German swear words is less offensive (as long as you aren’t speaking to a Brit, a Frenchman, or a German) to God and society?
If it’s not related to the meaning of the word or the particular language in which the word is said, it must be related to the intention, or motive, for the word’s use. Hence the reason it’s OK to go for a ride on an ass of the equine variety, but it’s not OK to act like one. When referring to a female dog, you can call her a bitch. But to call your wife that is not only to declare yourself a dog, it’s to put your life at risk. (Never call the person responsible for your food preparation nasty names.)
Of course, that logic puts many of the words that slip from our lips in the curse word category. Mean words, fear-filled words, hateful words, lying words, words full of doubt and unbelief. To “curse” something means to speak evil of a thing or a person. It’s the opposite of “bless.”
That means calling my house a dump, or my car a lemon is the equivalent of calling the car a piece of s*** or the house a pile of same, even though we’d never be rebuked for saying “dump” or “lemon.”
If we want to play at being the “word police,” picking and choosing violations of speech from among our vocabularies, I think we must begin to weigh all our words on the same scale — by intention and motive, not merely by a certain combination of letters. I’d much rather hear a string of four-letter words spoken without malicious intent than 30 seconds of 25-cent negativity intended to mislead and manipulate. In my opinion, that kind of “language” is far more profane than the utterance of a common cuss word.
Just a thought.