Swear words…The Vicious cycle of ignorance.

22 Nov

Where do swear words come from? 

Your mouth? 

Slang? 

Street Talk? 

Other languages? 

Or even mere evolution?

Originally such profanities were instigated through the human desire to exclaim anger, dislike or immense aversion to something or someone.  Sometimes there is not even a frank object at which they are directed. They range from unscrupulous or offensive words deriving from sexual, anatomical or even fecal subjects and it appears that most of the sources are ‘backronyms’ (or in layman’s terms, explanations which occur subsequent to the words common usage).

I ask this question at a time when the infamous ‘swear word’ has such wide and prominent use in today’s society not only amongst adults but elders and children alike. But what I do wonder is whether words employed for such frequent and widespread use are actually being utilised with the knowledge of their derivation, meaning or origin or, as I believe in complete ignorance?

As the only form of species we know of having our own unique language, language then, becomes a hugely magical thing. It allows us to know what people think, how people feel, what we are doing and what we are going to do. But when ‘swear words’ are employed into our language in complete ignorance (if they are) does it not then become impossible to truly know what a person thinks or feels? The magic of language therefore, then disappears.

As an example…

Does one know where the word ‘S-h-i-t’ originates from?

 

If this word were to be loyal to its originality it would be an abbreviation which stood for: Ship High In Transit. This relates to the shipment of manure which was dried first and then put onto the ship. However, when being transported on the ship the manure could consequently become moist and therefore excrete methane gas. This could often lead to explosions on ships and as a result the shipments of manure were therefore marked to be’ stored high in transit’ so they could not attract moisture and reach their destination safely.

Whilst you may use the word ‘s-h-i-t’ yourself, and whilst the words original meaning does relate to the fecal matter you initially intended it to I have a feeling you perhaps did not know you were making reference to an abbreviation? Precisely my point.

Ok, another word now…an extremely common one…

Do you know where the word ‘f-u-c-k’ originates? 

This is a far simpler derivation than the above and is believed to be cognate to Germanic languages such as; German (meaning to ‘f-u-c-k’), Dutch (meaning to breed), Norwegian (meaning to copulate) and Swedish (meaning to strike or even akin to the word for male genitalia). Therefore whilst the way the word is employed today is akin to its original meaning and should not really appear to be as taboo as it is generally felt, its aggressive inflection originating from the Germanic language placed within the context of the English language is quite possibly what makes it so controversial.

The belief that it stems from the acronym ‘Fornication under the consent of the King’ which implies that sexual intercourse was considered unlawful without the consent of the King is actually entirely false.

I chose to give background information on the two most commonly used English swear words. As the two most widespread vulgarities used in society today I firmly believe that not even 50% of users understand the words they are using. We are entirely conscious creatures when it comes to our own actions and it is slightly concerning if this is the case.

When I was a child I don’t recall commonly hearing swear words. If I heard one in a single day it was a shock. Even to my parents. I remember the look of utter horror on my mother’s face when I had picked up the word ‘b-o-l-l-o-c-k-s’ from a girl at school at the age of five years old and I uttered it in a conversation between two of my Barbie dolls whilst playing a game of ‘pretend’.  After that I definitely knew better than to utter another vulgar word whether in the presence of my parents or alone.

I grew up in one of few rather underprivileged areas in my County, my mother and I would walk up and down the high street at least once every day and such words were never heard. They were deemed aggressive, hostile and destructive to any relationships they were spoken within. So why are they so commonplace and acceptable now?

With the advent of the internet, many conversations occur through a computer screen meaning that many messages are typed. Perhaps when typing such a word, it then becomes more acceptable and less aggressive as it is not communicated face-to-face, it is also not heard.

 My argument is that people have perhaps got so used to communicating in this way that they have lost their grasp of what is acceptable in any social circumstance. As a result such profanities are used around elders, who may previously have deemed such words unmentionable and also around children who themselves are susceptible to picking up words used around them as a means of learning. Who then tells them that they are wrong when everyone else is using such words?

We are now in a vicious cycle.

This vicious cycle is fed through ignorance. As a child, teenager or young adult you learn at school, at college or at university. You are taught words, their meanings, their applicability and sometimes their origins. You are taught ‘good’ words. In these institutions you are never taught ‘bad’ words, you may be overheard in your use of them and consequently told off, but you are never told why they are ‘bad’. As such, because you do not know the meaning, origin or applicability of that word you continue to use it and as a consequence other people pick up that word and in hearing others use it, it becomes more and more acceptable yet still nobody knows its meaning, applicability or origin?

Language then loses its magic, its beauty and its intelligence.

Therefore this is ultimately why many used to and some still do consider the utilisation of ‘swear words’ to be by individuals who are dim, unintelligent and of course ignorant.

Are you one of those people?

Whilst some people argue that the employment of such vulgar terms have a civilising effect allowing a ‘fight’ without fists, I believe it highly degenerates the proposed society of modernity and progression we are supposed to live in.

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