New Words, Old Words, Same Meaning, WTF!

“I feel angry about this!”
“So, why don’t you just come out and say it?”
“I just did!”

The Oxford Dictionary added WTF and OMG to of the English Language in 2011. Frigging, dang, darn, gosh, and biatch are all in there, too. In 1972, George Carlin listed his “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.” English speakers have a history of adding words to the lexicon to replace other words in general usage – we replace “bad” words with “less bad” words.

What the bleep?!

What’s wrong with those and other similar words? They’re just sound for which we’ve attached meaning – just like all other words. For these particular words, though, we’ve attached another, more important layer of meaning: appropriateness.

That’s right – “somebody” (an authority) in history determined that these types of sounds are inappropriate, vulgar, crass, and otherwise rude. Therefore, they should never be used. When you use one of these words in a sentence, “polite people” automatically deem that sentence inappropriate, rude, and wrong. No matter how true or useful the statement. These words distract us, that we often miss the overall concept altogether while we settle our sensitivities down a bit.

Appropriateness trumps meaning! <Holy cow!>

So, to please the sensitive ears of a 14th century monarch of England and clergy, we English speakers developed a “second language” of sorts – we replaced “offensive” language with “less offensive” language. That’s right, we created another language to supplant or augment the original – basically doubling the vocabulary – for no other reason than the appearance of obedience to authority by propriety. No wonder teens like to use the original words — obedience, authority, teens… right, you got it (and we adults might listen more and maybe judge less?)

For example, “dang” and “darn” were added to the dictionary so we wouldn’t have to say the word “damn” anymore, thus no longer offending the sensitive ears of the Church while retaining the original meaning. Nevermind that “dang” AND “darn” both MEAN “damn.” Now we have three (no doubt more, too) words with identical meanings and similar sound in our dictionary. No wonder our print dictionaries are as large as small cars.

Somehow, having three or more words with similar sounds and identical meanings just strikes me as <freaking> inefficient usage of vocal communication. <Jiminy Crickets, what is wrong with us?!>

How about this: I just say what I mean and mean what I say – once? What might you hear if you weren’t so sensitive about which words I used? Certainly there are words that should not be used – because of their MEANINGS – like racial and ethnic slurs, etc. Fighting words. And yet, even these communicate meaning and say something useful about the speaker, do they not?

Communicating Efficiently

Ah, but then to communicate efficiently I’d have to understand myself and my audience (the basis of meaning), which results from self-investigation and maybe even, ugh! – dare I say it? – self-awareness (heaven forbid!). Then I’d have to learn how to construct meaningful and useful phrases and sentences – that have the same meaning to my audience – so that intent and content get shared effectually… it’s just SO MUCH FRIGGING’ WORK!!!

No, I think I’ll just stick with feeling offended (and defensive) at someone’s delivery rather than consider their meaning. Continuing my pattern of trumping meaning with appropriateness. And continue adding more words to my already absurdly bloated vocabulary. Thus remaining within the boundaries of propriety and safely far away from meaningful and effective communication.

What could possibly go [email protected]$^*! wrong?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.