Sunday, October 17, 2004

Dirty Words

uh oh... Mom just pointed out that a site I posted a link to contains profanity. She thought it was inappropriate, given that my Blog is mostly family safe.
I guess I have become somewhat desensitized to the occasional *&^%, and the random Bull-@#$%. There are plenty of sites on the World Wide Web that throw in colorful language, and then there is far, far worse. I strictly refrain from visiting the far, far worse, and make exceptions for an occasional *&^%. Going Jesus is one particular site that I enjoy, but I can't endorse it as a safe haven from profanity, so reader beware: Sara cuts loose.

Context means a lot to me. I would not bother to read even interesting articles if the author insisted on cursing out individuals without cause, or could not routinely make use of a wider variety of sentence enhancers. And there are some words I have discovered that mean entirely different things to different generations. Something that "sucks" is a bad thing, disappointing, unfair; it's not a lovely expression, but I never thought of it as Bad. Other adults have told me that they hear a whole other meaning in the expression that "sucks," and when it was explained to me I was somewhat taken aback, and also enlightened to their perspective. Now I can hear why they find the expression offensive, but isn't it necessary to bear in mind the intention of the speaker, even their culture and language experience? On a family trip to Canada I happily referred to my young son as a "little bugger." In my head: Cute as a bug. In their heads: Offensive homosexual descriptive. I made an entire dinner table full of Canadians pause awkwardly, and but I was blithely unaware of my "expletive."

Ever enjoy the primal delight and comfort of a big roaring fire, outdoors, on a starry night? We hosted a party with the highlight of the evening being a bonfire. I had given some thought to the word bonfire and thought it perhaps was something French, and meaning big or good. Nope. A party guest was very eager to inform us that a "bonfire" was the top of a slippery slope to hell, because it originates from the burning of bones. She was right about the bone burning. It was done, and it must have been bad, or maybe only a means of clearing out the fridge, so to speak, but I don't think language can always dictate our intentions or reflect our ultimate points of view and values. I never meant to reenact or pay homage to dark practices.* Language is dynamic and ours to manipulate. Word origins are fascinating, and understanding our word choices is necessary and valuable, but I never intend to be fearful of a word because of past usage or the implications applied by someone else's experience.

*It occurs to me that if you're going to have a bonfire you are almost certainly going to roast marshmallows, right? Marshmallows are sugar and gelatin, and gelatin is a palatable way of saying highly processed cow bones and connective tissue. So, maybe we really are burning bones. Gross. That totally sucks.

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