I have a confession to make–one I’m quite embarrassed about.
Actually, I am not fond of the various terms used to describe the use of Anglo-Saxonisms in modern speech. “Swearing” implies that you are making a religious statement, and the words I’ve used are definitely not that. Unless you worship poo. “Cursing” implies that you are either a fairy tale character or involved, like in “Swearing”, with religious words that instruct a deity to impart bad consequences on the direct object of your invective verb.
And “Cussing”–one of the top ten Words I Hate–just sounds like baby talk. “Mama, I got a boo-boo ouchie so I cussed.” Every time I hear someone say “cuss” I want to grab them by the lapels and insist that as an adult they speak like one. Granted, I have no idea why I’ve come to dislike the word Cuss so much, but I do. Maybe it’s because it shares a front half with another word I hate even more.
For lack of any other options, that leaves me with the term “Anglo-Saxonisms” to discuss the words I mean. My mother would call these terms “barnyard language” but whenever I hear that phrase I can only think Four legs good, two legs bad.
Some of my favourite shows–The Wire, Deadwood–are replete with Anglo-Saxonry and I can watch them for hours without batting an eye.
But lately I’ve noticed something happening–and here’s where the confession comes in.
My tolerance for this word usage is rapidly dropping. Last night while browsing a popular social medium I saw several examples of what most people consider to be The Worst of the usual suspects. I go to this particular site to relax and look at things that inspire me. Most of what ends up there are lovely pictures of gardens, artwork, President Lincoln. But a few friends add things that feature The Eff Word prominently. Now in years past that’s not been I word I’ve minded. It’s a piece of language like any other and in my view the only thing that gives it power are the people who give it power. I’ve generally felt–up til now–that if I didn’t treat it like a big deal it wasn’t going to be one.
Last night as I stumbled over it again and again it became like a bruise on an apple. Every instance where it was used it was meant as an assault. If someone were to say “look at this lovely effing car” I’d have no problem. But I think, now as I type this out and look at it with a morning’s eye I see what bothers me are the times when the person using it is making an assaulting statement. “You are so effing stupid.” “What the eff is your problem?”
I think I may start calling these “Hollow-Point”* words. Like the bullets, these words in this context are designed to give your strike maximum damage. And in reality they have no other point but to wound. Clearly if someone says you are effing stupid they don’t mean that your sexual knowledge is lacking. So the word itself has an empty point. It’s only there as an assault.
I think that’s why I’ve started to mind hollow point words more than I used to. In some contexts they are like little flecks of snot that escape from an uncovered sneeze, and exist only to foul the air and wound anyone within earshot. So its perhaps not so much the words I mind as the attitude that propels them into the air.
(Is anyone else as annoyed as I by the amount of quotes in this blog entry? It’s grammatically correct, but I feel like someone has sprinkled a rainstorm on my writing.)