Monday

Clean



First I wanted to thank everyone for the great comments on Friday's Mark Twain post. I was worried things might get heated, but the comments were well thought out, and all around great. There were so many points I agreed with, and frankly, none I didn't.

So. Words. I love words. What writer doesn't?

I found myself, last week, having a conversation with Baby B about words. He asked for a song on his MP3 player and I declined, by reason of Adult Content. He argued that I could edit out any bad words. I told him that bad words weren't an issue with that particular song - it was simply not age appropriate. (Momspeak for too much sexual innuendo.)

I haven't edited bad words out of the kids' songs for a few years now. Once they were old enough to grasp the concept of which words they could run around screaming in public places - like school.

I gave Baby B my reasons on non-editing of words. Becuase that's all they are: words. Every word has a meaning and, as a society, we have some words that people's brains have been dialed in to thinking of as bad. Yes, I know it came from centuries of yore when these words distinguished upper and lower class. However, they weren't curse words to the lower class then, but they are all-around curse words now.

My example to Baby B was the word ass. I used butt in a sentence and then repeated the same sentence with ass. It held the same meaning. Before I could do it for him, Baby B made the distinction himself - it's only bad because some people say to be mean or use it in a way they shouldn't. (Okay, maybe not precisely how I would put it, but not bad for having turned 9 a month ago.)

This is not to say my children run around belting out foul language at home, either. They don't. Neither do I (but, boy, did I used to pre-kids!). I'm a writer; I have better options is all ;)

Another example. Retarded by definition is exactly what it was used to describe when I was growing up. People changed the connatation, and the word was changed. Those words were, again, made derogatory by people and, again, the terminology is changing.

My point: Words are words. And I don't think it's the words that need the changing.

20 comments:

Cheree said...

That's a great way of putting it. English is a funny language where the meaning of the words change often. I love the saying "Words are words".

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Linda Kage said...

I guess like beauty is in the eye of the beholder, a word is dirty in the ear of the society using it.

Great post. Thought provoking. Thanks.

Old Kitty said...

I'd like to think that words like language evolve and are alive just as society matures (hopefully for the better)! Take care
x

Christopher said...

English is such a democratic language. Literally anything can become a word. We can change the meaning of any word. If you look at a word like gay for example the meaning has completely changed in the last 50 years but it somehow works. What we really have is a language full of slang. People say the slang words enough, they become "real words". It's pretty interesting and a stark contrast to say French. French is lorded over with a heavy hand. They are very careful what words make it into the French language. We just like to let everyone in. The more the merrier I say.

Melissa Gill said...

I can't think of anything better to say than, "what you all said."

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

What you said!
And I'd hold back the sexual innuendo song as well. He's got plenty of time before he needs to learn that stuff.

The Words Crafter said...

Yep. You said it!

Lola Sharp said...

Well said, Tara. Word.

M Pax said...

Agreed. Great post. It's amazing how much the language changes and connotations of words in a fairly short span of time.

Hannah Kincade said...

I agree. Words are just words and the moment you let them become more than that you give them a power that is usually only used negatively. This reminds me of something I heard Oprah talk about once. I won't get into it here though for fear of angering the "O."

Jemi Fraser said...

Living languages evolve and grow - words do change. I love words - I just hoped they're used to help and not hurt :)

Alleged Author said...

Sometimes it's not the words that breed negativity, it is people's reactions to them. I'm always amazed when people let something like that have so much power over them.

Tony Benson said...

Interesting post. The English language is a tremendously powerful and expressive medium, and much of its power of expression is down to its scope for subtlety. The subtle messages, or not so subtle in some cases, conveyed by words, or words used in certain contexts, changes over time and we all need to be sensitive to that otherwise we're expressing something other than what we intended.

Not sure whether I expressed what I intended...

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Shari said...

I like words, too. Your post about them was so true. It is interesting how terminology changes.

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Jamie Fox said...

I completely agree. People place so much emotion behind certain words, and that's really what makes them powerful. That was actually my main point in my Mark Twain post too. Good stuff!

Linda G. said...

"Words are words. And I don't think it's the words that need the changing."

That's the perfect way to put it. :)

Katie said...

Interesting thoughts on words. I think it's great that you're discussing that kind of thing with your son!

Deniz Bevan said...

That's great way of addressing the issue Tara - and relates to the Huck Finn business as well; if parents and teachers are helpful and straightforward with guidance, then no words should be afeard of. And, of course, context is everything, like in your ass/butt example.
(Okay, that last line sounds kinda funny)

Jai Joshi said...

It's very true that the way we use words and the intention behind our words is more just as important was the word itself if not more important. People need to stop stressing about words and start talking about the problems of how words are used and misused.

Jai

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