I have been passionate about words all my life and more specifically semantics and etymology. I have studied neither academically.Here’s some random thoughts on the subject.
Children and expletives
For a long time I have been the frequent user of expletives, I probably started around 15 or 16 years of age, maybe it was something rebellious, maybe even then I was more concerned in conveying meaning rather than the vehicle through which it was conveyed. Maybe I like to shock, well I do like to shock, anything that moves people out of a comfort zone always appeals to me. I still swear too much, and I say this only because it is so unacceptable here in the US that it may have a deleterious effect on my Reason. I occasionally let go of an “f” bomb or “shit” or, as I have noticed by its occasional usage by my five year old son, the utterance of The Lord’s name in vain or more often His kid.
As all children do, my Reason test me, they will drop a carefully placed expletive (usually in a hushed tone) to gauge my reaction – and this is what they get – the “stare” and a brief but firm warning – “it is not acceptable to say those words in public outside this house – people will think you are not smart, because you don’t know better words to use – and if you say it at school you’re going to get into trouble – do you want that?” Its the most I’m prepared to do. If, however, they use those words to be mean or cruel or use other words that are far more damaging ie “David you are stupid” – that gets an immediate, no-questions-asked time-out. I know they are going to imitate what they experience at home so I’m trying to eliminate all expletives from everyday use, however the point still stands – its not the words, its the intended message that incurs punishment.
From the sublime to the ridiculous
Upon picking up my youngest from his Montessori pre-school last week I was told the owner wanted to talk to me . More trouble.
Owner: Hi its nothing terrible but David used a bad word today.
Simon: Oh dear
Owner: It was very funny actually
Simon: Which word?
Owner: The bad word
Simon: Which word exactly?
Owner: He was picking up blocks and he dropped them (demonstrating – delivered rapidfire) he kept bashing his fist into his forehead “Fuck,fuck,fuck,fuck,fuck”
Simon(laughing) : Oh dear, thats me Im afraid.
Owner: It was really funny, but we can’t say that here.
Simon: I understand
Owner: What we do is give them an alternative we get them to stamp their foot – they are usually frustrated
Simon: Great idea
Owner: And get them to say “Im exasperated”
Simon(trying not to laugh) : thats a great idea . I’ll try to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Youre kidding me! “I’m exasperated” for “fuck”. What are they thinking? He’s three! He’s just started saying monosyllabic sentences.” Exasperated” ain’t gonna fly . I thought about damn – but you cant say that in the US. So I’ve settled on “darn” – its still not the same.. it’s not the same in the mouth, you can’t say it with relish and it doesn’t have the lovely finality of that voiceless velar plosive… but it will have to do.
Adults and words or what the faggots have taught us
“gay” “faggot” “poofter” “queer” “camp” “pillow-biter” “homo” “lemon” “butch” “dyke” – apart from being derogatory euphemisms for being homosexual, what do these words have in common? Thankfully, they’ve largely lost their sting. Why? The gay community have been smart enough to own them, be proud of their labels and even to go so far as to encourage their usage. Homosexuals now proudly wear these words as badges of honor – as they should.
This does not excuse people who still attempt to use them as weapons but it makes their job terribly difficult when their target is wearing a t-shirt that reads “camp” or “queer as hell”.
Wogs in Australia have done the same and I’d encourage all ethnic groups to adopt the same tactics, if it’s a part of you, be proud. I’m talking to all of you chinks, lebbos, abos, and niggers, to all micks, hymies, polacks,camel jockeys and curry munchers take the power back from the fuckers (used entirely derogatorily) who would use these words as weapons against you. Defuse the language of hatred and ignorance.
Whoever reads this blog knows my good friend Valerie Foley has a son, Billy, who has autism. I will never say he is autistic. He is not. Autism is a condition he has and I do not believe it is an essential part of who he is, any more than it is to say I am cancerous if I have cancer.To say someone is autistic connotes communicability and misfortune. It is neither; it is a condition not to be pitied or feared but to be understood.
That’s enough from me on the subject….for today
Here’s an interesting article from The Washington Post