Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Our sensitivity about 'curse' words has changed with the times
Deseret News ^ | Saturday, September 6, 2003 | Elaine Jarvik

Posted on 09/06/2003 7:20:53 AM PDT by ChemistCat

Pardon our French, as people used to say back in the days when they didn't use the following words quite so often, but we're going to now talk about the phrases "pissed off" and "that sucks." Are these dirty words? Or just words? And what about those other words, the ones that are still taboo enough to require dashes or abbreviations in newspapers such as this one? The s-word. The f-word. The f-word used as the all-purpose adjective. High-school teachers will tell you the halls are full of these words. As for "pissed off" — students say it so often "they're unaware they even say it," Highland High chemistry teacher Monica French says. Expletives made headlines last month when the Grove Theater in Pleasant Grove canceled its production of Neil Simon's "Rumors" after the playwright refused to let the theater delete language it thought its audience would find offensive — "a lot of G-D and Jesus Christs," explains theater co-owner Gayliene Omary, plus "the f-word used very casually." Acoustically speaking, words are just a series of hisses, pops and clicks. " 'Bad' words only have an effect if people think they're bad," says Marianna Di Paolo, chairwoman of the University of Utah Department of Linguistics. "Words are harmful if a culture regards them as harmful. Words become taboo because the culture associates taboo things with them. In Victorian times, the word "leg" was considered risque, Di Paolo explains. At the dinner table, it wasn't acceptable to ask for a leg or a thigh of chicken, which is why people started using the term "dark meat." (People also put skirts on tables and beds, so the furniture legs wouldn't show.) Within our own cultural memory, the word "pregnant" was forbidden on "I Love Lucy" in the early 1950s. Our sensitivity about words changes over time. Linguists call that "cognitive dialectology," says Rodolfo Celis, a linguist at Arcadia University. A word like "pissed" or "sucks," for example, might be considered crass and therefore inappropriate in "polite company." Then it starts seeping into more general usage, until finally there's a tipping point, Celis says, in which the word has become so mainstream that the people who still don't use it — often the older generation — start complaining that language has become coarser. Eventually, though, a word that once could get your mouth washed out with soap will be regarded as just a word. Does that mean we've become desensitized and crass? More desensitized but also less neurotic about bodily functions and sex? Have the words simply become sounds, devoid of any reference to something taboo? " 'Suck' is one that I am personally struggling with," says Celis, "as I perceive that it is shifting. When things are shifting there are some dangerous points of ambiguity." So recently, while teaching his freshman English composition class, in what he describes as "a lame attempt at inter-group affiliation," he said to his students: "I know some of these chapters kind of suck in the sense of exciting reading." The word sounded vulgar to his own ears, Celis admits. "But I genuinely think it is an almost neutral adjective for many freshmen."

Taboos evolve Playwright Neil Simon's lawyer told Grove Theatre co-owner Gayliene Omary that "educated people" can handle the f-word, and that Utahns need to become desensitized. That got Omary thinking. "Maybe he's saying that educated people don't let these words have power. Maybe we give these words more power than they deserve." But Omary doesn't agree. If a person becomes desensitized to the f-word, she says, it means becoming desensitized to the disrespect she believes it embodies. Robert Thompson, professor of media and culture at Syracuse University, recently heard a young Presbyterian pastor use the word "crap" from the pulpit. Thompson guesses the pastor didn't realize that the word once referred exclusively to excrement. The media didn't teach Americans to swear, Thompson notes. But what "The Sopranos," Ozzy Osbourne and countless movies have done is "domesticate" words that once were limited to fenced-off areas of social discourse — behind the barn, in bars, on ships full of proverbial sailors. On Thompson's campus, walking across the quad, he'll hear students sprinkling the f-word throughout their conversations — which makes him wonder if, by the time these students are grandparents, the f-word will shock anyone at all. "It took centuries for the f-word to acquire the taboo that it holds; it'll take only a generation to completely wear it out," Thompson predicts. And then what? "We're wearing these things out very quickly, and you can't just make these things up. An entire culture has to agree that a word means something, that it has an aura and a gravitas, and that takes generations." Cuss words are not a renewable resource, he says. The good news is that "the only reason this stuff outrages anyone is because we've all agreed it deserves outrage," Thompson argues. The bad news, he says, is that a culture needs its curses. His theory is that the reason road rage has escalated is that the use of the middle finger as a non-verbal curse has become so casual. "It used to be so forbidden and taboo. So if you used it, you felt you'd gotten your revenge." Now, because it's lost some of its power, "you have to go elsewhere for revenge."

Violence rehearsal Salt Lake psychologist Lynn Johnson disagrees, seeing swearing not as an alternative to violence but a "rehearsal for real violence," a way of training the brain at being irritable and aggressive. As for vulgar language, "Can you imagine Mother Teresa saying, 'Hey, that really sucks, I am so pissed off,' "Johnson asks. Often it's not the words themselves, it's the tone in which the words are uttered that's damaging, to both the listener and the speaker, says Jim O'Connor of Lake Forest, Ill., who five years ago founded the Cuss Control Academy. O'Connor's list of reasons swearing "imposes a personal penalty" includes: "It makes you unpleasant to be with; it endangers your relationships; it's a tool for whiners and complainers, . . . it shows you don't have control." Swearing also represents the dumbing down of America, O'Connor says, and it lacks imagination. Despite his campaign, and hundreds of interviews on TV, radio and in print, O'Connor reports that America as a whole is swearing more than ever. On an individual basis, though, people tell him he's helped them clean up their acts. His own daughter, who once was "quite foul-mouthed," stopped swearing cold-turkey three years ago, at age 24. "She became a Mormon and stopped swearing," O'Connor says. "Most of the people I know who really stopped swearing, who stopped completely, did it because of religion." The Bible is clear in its admonition about taking the Lord's name in vain. As for vulgar language, preachers sometimes refer to passages such as Ephesians 4:29, translated in various versions as "let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth" or "let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth." "Swearing is a venial sin, and a venial sin weakens charity," argues Dan John, director of religious education for the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City. Foul language "weakens the layers of community," he says. If no one is offended, "that's a sign that the bonds of community are being weakened. If you're not offended by offensive things, then we have a problem." Are there exceptions —for example, solitary swearing? "I'd hate to go to hell and find out I'm there on a stubbed-toe violation," John says.

Stub-toe swearing Stub-toe swearing comes from a different part of the brain than normal speech, scientists say. Washington University theoretical neurobiologist William H. Calvin, author of "A Brain for All Seasons," explains that "emphatic exclamations of all sorts seem to be coming from the supplementary motor area, in the midline of the brain above the corpus callosum. That's also true of many animal vocalizations." What Calvin calls "novel strings of words — our short and long sentences" are created in a different part of the brain. "People can have strokes that disrupt novel sorts of language (i.e. aphasia) while still being able to swear like sailors. It can be very distressing to their families." Calvin said he doesn't know if anyone has studied whether someone who tries to use faux swear words would utter the more forbidden f-word following a stroke, or whether "fetch" would still be satisfying enough.


TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: cussing; language; profanity; swearing
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-5051-60 next last

Alex Nabaum, Deseret Morning News

Put me in the stubbed-toe-violation category. I'll be working on it!

My spouse claims that he doesn't think cr*p is or ever has been a bad word, but I bet he never used it around his grandma.
1 posted on 09/06/2003 7:20:54 AM PDT by ChemistCat
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: ChemistCat
Profanity is the crutch of the conversational cripple.
2 posted on 09/06/2003 7:24:15 AM PDT by Non-Sequitur
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ChemistCat
Aren't they all really just words? Sticks and stones, etc....
3 posted on 09/06/2003 7:25:05 AM PDT by stuartcr
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: stuartcr
It's all just so gay...
4 posted on 09/06/2003 7:30:10 AM PDT by Eagle Eye (There ought to be a law against excessive legislation.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Non-Sequitur
Profanity is the crutch of the conversational cripple.

Good one. I like that.

5 posted on 09/06/2003 7:30:23 AM PDT by Texas Mom
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: stuartcr
I think some of the slangs are somewhat funny when they are strung into phrases. A friend was changing a tire yeterday. A State trooper had just gotten off shift at the barraks when he saw my friend and stopped to make sure he was all right.

A carload of kids went by, saw my friend and did not see the trooper, and shouted out, "Hey Dude! It must suck to be you!"

The trooper said, "If you have this under control, I think I shall take off, and give them a ration of crap, OK?"

Fellow came to Work laughing about it.

6 posted on 09/06/2003 7:33:23 AM PDT by Gorzaloon (Contents may have settled during shipping, but this tagline contains the stated product weight.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

Comment #7 Removed by Moderator

To: Eagle Eye
It's all just so gay...

Yes.

8 posted on 09/06/2003 7:41:48 AM PDT by ppaul
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: Nac Mac Feegle
I realized yesterday that I have been in Oklahoma long enough now that "yeah" has two syllables and "something" is pronounced "sumpin."

Oh, dear.
9 posted on 09/06/2003 7:41:57 AM PDT by ChemistCat (Focused, Relentless Charity Beats Random Acts of Kindness.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: ChemistCat
I remember Dr. J. Vernon McGee saying crap on the radio. "And may I say to ya, that's a bunch on crap!
I don't find it offensive. It’s just like the words feces or excrement, IMO.
10 posted on 09/06/2003 7:45:19 AM PDT by Jonx6
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ChemistCat
But Omary doesn't agree. If a person becomes desensitized to the f-word, she says, it means becoming desensitized to the disrespect she believes it embodies.

Given the current rate of rape, STDs, and pregnancy...she may just have a point.

11 posted on 09/06/2003 7:46:48 AM PDT by joesnuffy (Moderate Islam Is For Dilettantes)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ChemistCat
I realized yesterday that I have been in Oklahoma long enough now that "yeah" has two syllables and "something" is pronounced "sumpin."

Yeah, but are you fixin' to do sumpin?

12 posted on 09/06/2003 7:51:03 AM PDT by rond
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: stuartcr
"Aren't they all really just words? Sticks and stones, etc...."

All words are not equal - words mean things. . .putting them on the typical equal playing field of Liberal life disempowers a language just as equal playing fields disempower individuals.

13 posted on 09/06/2003 7:54:59 AM PDT by cricket
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: ChemistCat
Well, F*** the author of this column. She S***s. :-)
14 posted on 09/06/2003 7:58:04 AM PDT by El Gran Salseron
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Non-Sequitur
The topic and comments that I have so far read are symptoms of the decay of our language. Profanity takes the name in vain. Obscenity refers to bodily functions and 'I'll know it when I see it.' A vulgarity is merely 'common' speech. In every case offense, like beauty, lies in the eye of the beholder. In this day and age of hyperbolic speech, a good 'curse' cuts through a lot of PC bull shit.
15 posted on 09/06/2003 7:58:45 AM PDT by dhuffman@awod.com (The conspiracy of ignorance masquerades as common sense.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: cricket
HOO rah! Bump to the top! Well said.
16 posted on 09/06/2003 8:00:11 AM PDT by dhuffman@awod.com (The conspiracy of ignorance masquerades as common sense.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: cricket
As I understand it, when the Normans (French) conquered England, Anglo Saxon words were relegated to the vulgar. Ergo it is ok to use the word "intercourse" but not to use the "F word." Same for many other bodily and social functions.

When one mulls that over, it makes it more uncomfortable to accept some of the divisions between "proper" and not.
17 posted on 09/06/2003 8:04:34 AM PDT by marsh2
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: ChemistCat
It's not just curse words, of course -- words of all types are constantly being "devalued" to the extent that new words must be invented to convey the original sense intended.

For example, awful once meant, and in fact is still defined in my dictionary (among other definitions) as filling one with terror or dread or worthy of solomn respect. Most contemporary use of the word, however, is in a much more trivial framework, as in "that was an awful cup of coffee."

Mary Poppins' word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious will probably soon mean not bad.

18 posted on 09/06/2003 8:04:58 AM PDT by southernnorthcarolina ("Yes, but other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ChemistCat
Casual vulgarity simply isn't pleasant, which, I think, is why people use it with such alarming frequency. To my mind it's like sitting down to a formal dinner and finding a dehydrated lump of dog feces on the table.
19 posted on 09/06/2003 8:05:44 AM PDT by Agnes Heep
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: southernnorthcarolina
words of all types are constantly being "devalued" to the extent that new words must be invented to convey the original sense intended.

The word "Hero" is lost and there is no substitute. "Hero" has come to mean anyone we like, leaving no word for TRUE Heros. Thus, there is no ability in English to differentiate and discern.

This is true for many other words such as "Impact" and "Overview."

20 posted on 09/06/2003 8:09:43 AM PDT by freedumb2003 (Peace through Strength)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

To: marsh2
Another interesting difference between Anglo-Saxon and Norman French is that the names for animals are mostly Anglo-Saxon, from the workers who raised them, but the names for the meat made from those animals are French, from the lords who ate them.

Cow/beef; Pig/pork; Sheep/mutton; and so on.
21 posted on 09/06/2003 8:14:49 AM PDT by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: rond
On Saturday?

Ye-ah.

:Sigh:
22 posted on 09/06/2003 8:19:02 AM PDT by ChemistCat (Focused, Relentless Charity Beats Random Acts of Kindness.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: ChemistCat
I like this line:
"Can you imagine Mother Teresa saying, 'Hey, that really sucks, I am so pissed off,'" Johnson asks.
Gonna use it with my kids.

"Son of a gun" used to be an "awful" expression. It was a reference to the locale in which a bastard child's life was conceived, the gun decks of ships at port. S.O.B. took over, but that's lost it's edge, too. I mean, here's a clear case of the democratization of words: so many S.O.B.'s out there these days...

My kids' mother let them buy the PG-version of an Eminem album. It was ridiculous, reminded of a most sublime free speech protest from 1924, a little book called "Mother Goose - Censored," and went like this:

Old Mother Goose, when
She wanted to ________
Would _______a fat goose
Or a very fine gander.

or

Jacke and Jill went up the hill
To ______________________;
Jack fell down adn broke his ______,
And Jill came tumbling after.

And so on, through all the nursery rhymes.

So I bought the kids the uncut Eminem, and told them, "Don't you dare use these words yourself." My son took to repeating the bad words with their more, uh, formal versions, "excrement!" "Fornication!" etc. It's funny!

Now, if I can just remove "this" and "like" from their vocabulary....

Nicollo unmasked: Bromleyisms here

23 posted on 09/06/2003 8:23:33 AM PDT by nicollo
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Eagle Eye
Eagle Eye,

you said, "it's all just so gay..."

What does that statement mean and why do people say it?

24 posted on 09/06/2003 8:25:18 AM PDT by Major_Risktaker (Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: ChemistCat
Society is replacing those swear words with new ones like "ultraconservative", "Christian", "prolife", "right-wing"...

Soon, those will be said in the same vein we used to hear "nigger", "spic", "kike", "whore"...

25 posted on 09/06/2003 8:35:40 AM PDT by Tall_Texan (http://righteverytime1.blogspot.com - home to Tall_Texan's latest column.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ChemistCat
"We're wearing these things out very quickly, and you can't just make these things up. An entire culture has to agree that a word means something, that it has an aura and a gravitas, and that takes generations."

That's great, now even "f**k" has this "gravitas" thing. I infer that back in the 2000 campaign if GW Bush really wanted to bolster his Gravitas Quotient someone should have told him to pepper his speeches with the f-word.

Much is made here and elsewhere about parents' roles in teaching their children the skills and values they'll need in life later on, but I've never read anything about grandparents' roles in the process. In my case, my grandfather (an oil tanker captain) taught me that profanity, while being a valid tool in communication, is like the paintbrush to the painter - one requires training and talent to employ it artfully. His most important lessons were taught to me while on the golf course - it was there I learned that if one truly wishes to be a vulgarian he must have the temperment of the artist.

Reflecting on the education he gave me, I never understood why some people would be so artless in their use of our culture's treasured four-lettered words. It's akin to crying wolf when every other word is f-this and f-that. What will they do when the situation arises when the f-word is truly called for, and it needs to carry a punch? They have no go-to option, because they've all but worn out their vocabulary. Listeners will remark "Oh, he's just saying 'f**k', but he doesn't really mean it - he says that all the time." Innocent blood may be spilled while he lamely fumbles for a substitute to "f**k" where none exists - it has been the best our culture can do. For these people I feel truly sorry they didn't have the upbringing that I did.

26 posted on 09/06/2003 8:36:26 AM PDT by Tredge
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ChemistCat
Rules of etiquette mean nothing to cretins! The shock and awe of gutteral language that goes against conventional norms, frames the person's ignorance.

Take the rules of this forum for example! It is expressly noted that no profanity,gutteral language,racial slurs or any un-savory language is allowed, yet the moderators always seem to allow deviation of these establised rules. I have called and made reference on numerous occasions about this growing problem in our nation and socially astute people are in high awareness of the slackness in applying and regulating what gets out on this forum.

This growing national experiential phenomen grows ever more present in the liberated environment of modern America, so the moderators on forums where this violates the established rules must be quick to delete the objectional material before it gets posted otherwise they themselves become part of the problem by allowing it to linger. Your challenge is still before you and unfortunately always will be!

27 posted on 09/06/2003 8:49:48 AM PDT by winker
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Non-Sequitur
Profanity is the crutch of the conversational cripple.

Not true. Profanity CAN be crutch of conversational cripple, but I know great many fine conversationalists who pepper comments with profanity.

28 posted on 09/06/2003 8:57:55 AM PDT by Alter Kaker (Whatever tears one may shed, in the end one always blows oneís nose.-Heine)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: ChemistCat
Language that offends traditional morality is OK to today. You can thel the teacher to F*** Off. Language that offends political special interests is forbidden and punished harshley. Call the teacher a Fa**ot and you will be expelled. Call soeone at work a Bas***d - that's fine. Call someone a c**t you will be unemployed.

29 posted on 09/06/2003 9:01:02 AM PDT by azcap
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: stuartcr
"Arn't they all just words"
Like "the little hole in the dike is only a snall leak". It is what follows in the declining of morality that counts in the long run. As the permissiveness of profanity started in movies in the "DAMN" in "Gone with the wind" has lead to the GARBAGE MOUTH dialog now heard in most movies.
30 posted on 09/06/2003 9:04:15 AM PDT by Uncle George
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: ChemistCat
My neighbor was a hippie type in the 'glorious 60's' here in the SF area. He's around 60 years old now and every time he chats with me he uses the phrase " it looks like s---!" to describe, say, another neighbor's dry lawn. His conversation is peppered with this word, and also J-C- used as a swear word.

Gee, it is so nice to look up to the older generation for inspiration and guidance in matters of culture and manners.
31 posted on 09/06/2003 9:18:25 AM PDT by Gal.5:1
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ChemistCat
Often, cursing in movie dialogues is so inappropriate that it becomes distracting and irritating, like getting the accent wrong.
32 posted on 09/06/2003 9:20:07 AM PDT by Savage Beast (The American Heartland--the Spirit of Flight 93)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ChemistCat
I'd swear much less if there were no liberals.
33 posted on 09/06/2003 9:21:28 AM PDT by Marie (Klingon at heart...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: freedumb2003
The word "Hero" is lost and there is no substitute. "Hero" has come to mean anyone we like, leaving no word for TRUE Heroes. Thus, there is no ability in English to differentiate and discern.

You are right. And what an outstanding example of "word devaluation."

Hero, of Greek origin, is defined thus in my dictionary... and note that each of the definitions is a step down:

To continue the downward spiral of the word, we could add a usage more often seen these days:What to do about "word devaluation"? Nothing, I guess, because the cure would be worse than the disease. France, as well as Quebéc, are obsessed with keeping the French language "pure," and have set up bureaucracies for the purpose of enforcement (as in making un-approved words on signs and in ads illegal). We don't want to go there.

Guess we'll just have to come up with a new word for hero.

34 posted on 09/06/2003 9:25:41 AM PDT by southernnorthcarolina ("Yes, but other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 20 | View Replies]

Comment #35 Removed by Moderator

To: Tall_Texan
I fear you may be right on that one.

I've learned to tune out most profanity... they ARE just words, even though I find them distasteful and disrespectful.

But- if I'm around friends or family who blaspheme, I will kindly let them know that that's where I draw the line. It's working to some extent- a friend of mine who was very fond of saying G-D and J-C has almost completely stopped. It does disturb me, however, that those two profanities are given a free pass on TV.

36 posted on 09/06/2003 9:37:18 AM PDT by Ferret Fawcet (Trust God's authority, not man's majority.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 25 | View Replies]

To: ChemistCat
Crap comes from Thomas Crapper, a toilet manufacturer in England at the turn of the century. His toilets had Crapper written in bold on the tanks. American GI's in WWI picked up the word as slang for toilet, and crap for what was put in it. In time the word gained then lost its vulgarity.

It is a lie that vulgarity is not renewable. New words are developed based on what a society considers "holy." Right now racial tolerance is probably the holiest thing, and so racial slurs are the vulgarities. For most of history it has been religion along with spiritual life. Thus the words for God and the base functions of the body became the objectionables.
37 posted on 09/06/2003 9:39:29 AM PDT by mongrel
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Uncle George
People have been cursing since there were languages.....long before movies.
38 posted on 09/06/2003 4:33:30 PM PDT by stuartcr
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 30 | View Replies]

To: cricket
Outside of literal definitions, the meanings of profanity/curse words are subjective....what is offensive to one, may not be offensive to another, therefore, they really don't mean anything.
39 posted on 09/06/2003 4:39:07 PM PDT by stuartcr
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: nicollo
To what do you (or they) think 'suck' refers?
40 posted on 09/06/2003 4:44:03 PM PDT by dhuffman@awod.com (The conspiracy of ignorance masquerades as common sense.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 23 | View Replies]

To: winker
Rules of etiquette mean nothing to cretins!

The drovers of the American west cattle drives in the 19th century would heartily agree with you if anyone should refer to them as "cowboys".

"Talk low, talk slow, and don't say too much."
John Wayne

41 posted on 09/06/2003 5:09:03 PM PDT by Mushinronshasan
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 27 | View Replies]

To: dhuffman@awod.com
To what do you (or they) think 'suck' refers?

That's a good question. When I grew up (1970s), the word was the worst possible for my parents. You didn't say it. Other words weren't as much a problem, because they weren't used as much. We were just starting to separate "suck" from its implied sexual meaning, and we were starting to say it in normal conversation. For my parents, that's all it meant. For my kids now, it means "bad," and no more.

My parents used "son of a gun." They didn't know what it meant.

42 posted on 09/07/2003 12:02:19 AM PDT by nicollo
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 40 | View Replies]

To: Major_Risktaker
It's a term commonly used by teens and young adults. IMO, it is a slightly disparaging comment that says that something is very lame.

In some places, saying that something is "so gay" is so five minutes ago.

43 posted on 09/07/2003 2:02:25 AM PDT by Eagle Eye (There ought to be a law against excessive legislation.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 24 | View Replies]

To: nicollo
So now we're down to 'mean people suck' meaning nothing, because those displaying the aphorism don't understand it, or meaning 'the hoi polloi indulge in oral intercourse'. Quite a wide range of non-meaning between the significant ends.
44 posted on 09/07/2003 4:27:28 AM PDT by dhuffman@awod.com (The conspiracy of ignorance masquerades as common sense.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 42 | View Replies]

To: dhuffman@awod.com
I'll never forget the admonition of my professor of "Speech" (an unfortunate replacement for "Rhetoric") at the use of the verb "quote" as a noun by one of the students:
"When a word loses its specificity it loses its meaning."
My 1958 Webster's lists "quote" as a noun only as a colloquialism. My 1967 Random House dictionary gives it full "noun" status. Anybody use the word "quotation" any more? A piece of the language died.

You complain that "suck" no longer means its meaning. Having been removed of it, it is no longer an epithet. So if "mean people suck," so what? (I know a couple nice people that do that, too.)

45 posted on 09/07/2003 9:38:08 AM PDT by nicollo
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 44 | View Replies]

To: nicollo
I don't know what is the significance of the bumpersticker. I am 'mean' by two of the uses of the word and enjoy oral hetero-intercourse. Are they trying to disparage or insult me? Do I give them the five-fingered wave and let them decide its meaning?

Or do I draw my sidearm, an armed society being a polite society?
46 posted on 09/07/2003 10:19:11 AM PDT by dhuffman@awod.com (The conspiracy of ignorance masquerades as common sense.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 45 | View Replies]

To: dhuffman@awod.com
Lol!
47 posted on 09/07/2003 11:07:31 AM PDT by nicollo
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 46 | View Replies]

To: stuartcr
Cursing a person in the old times affected only the cursee. Cursing in a movie affects MILLIONS upon MILLIONS. Like comparing a firecracker to an H bomb.
48 posted on 09/07/2003 4:06:46 PM PDT by Uncle George
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 38 | View Replies]

To: stuartcr
Aren't they all really just words?

Every ancient culture attributed magical powers to words. The Bible tells of God 'speaking' the world into existence. Pagans believe that words can cast spells. And system programmers still worship at the command-line prompt.

49 posted on 09/07/2003 4:12:24 PM PDT by JoeSchem (Which way is Arnold's political weather vane pointing today?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: ChemistCat
Our sensitivity about 'curse' words has changed with the times

So much so that barely anyone is even aware of what a curse is. For instance, calling Clinton an SOB is not an example of cursing; but stating "May his member shrivel and fall off" is.
50 posted on 09/07/2003 4:15:54 PM PDT by aruanan
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]


Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-5051-60 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson