Obviously, or I wouldn’t be a writer or a blogger. But this goes beyond merely definitions and synonyms and finding the most poetic way to phrase a love letter. What I love about words, more than anything, is their power. The power to persuade, the power to hurt, the power to heal, the power to educate, the power to fool, and the power to hide. It’s true: The Power of Words makes me squeal.
The Power of Words.
We are all familiar with the first four of The Power of Words:
Using the best phrasing with the right mix of psychology can sway a doubter your way.
Power of Words #2: Hurt
Anger or maliciousness can scar a person more than a physical blow, if delivered with the right use of verbal force.
Power of Words #3: Heal
The sweetest message can mend a broken heart, bridge a fallen friendship, or put pain in the past.
Power of Words #4: Educate
Finding the right key can unlock any door of ignorance, if only the educator is willing to put in the work to do so.
No one means all he says,
and yet very few say all they mean,
for words are slippery
and thought is viscous.
~Henry Brooks Adams
The Power of Words are used all the time.
There are blatant instances of these first four Power of Words at work in our everyday conversation.
— People “pass away” instead of die.
— We “use the restroom” instead of urinate or defecate or change out feminine products.
— Lovers “embrace passionately” or “make love” instead of engage in sexual intercourse.
Sometimes it’s simply more kind to utilize a euphemism. I would never say to a weeping widow, for example, “Sorry your spouse just died.” Gentle can be good.
Nor would I say to people I’d only just met, “I gotta duke and change my tampon.”
And as for the sex, well I typically don’t discuss that with others at all. No, for realz. My sister thinks I’m a real prude in this department, which is funny since I’m so crass otherwise.
Anyway, these euphemisms aren’t the ones that worry me. They are generally used for discretion or to soften a blow, not to hide behind a fence where you hope no one sees you.
to say what we all can say,
but what we are unable to say.
It’s the last two Power of Words — the power to fool, and the power to hide — about which I am concerned. These are ones we all use, but which few are willing to admit using. This disturbs me. They are dangerous tools, heavily overused by our euphemism-saturated society. And they are definitely used for hiding out.
But guess what? I can still see you.
so innocent and powerless as they are,
as standing in a dictionary,
how potent for good and evil they become
in the hands of one who knows
how to combine them.
Curses are my biggest pet peeves in discussing euphemisms. I call it the Voldemort Principle. There are certain terms falling under the Power of Words we are not allowed to say without gasps and snorts of disapproval, or even fear in the case of using the Lord’s name in vein.
[[[ Whatever that name is. Last I heard, the name was so holy, or un-pronouncable, it was not given to man and was thus unutterable. So we came up with… that’s right… EUPHEMISMS to express the name of God. Only now we’re not even allowed to use the euphemisms. So my prayers always start out… Dear “He Who Shall Not Be Named”… No, for realz.
Brief history of religion: God’s name was originally a secret. So then people created the euphemism, “God”. Which some people still find offensive, so we’ve created yet another euphemism: “G-d”. Which is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. A euphemism in place of a euphemism? WTH??? ← Proof God has a GREAT sense of humor, cuz that shit is funny right there.
Just think about it. William is too much of a hassle, so we shorten it to Billy or even Bill. What if we decided that was too much hassle as well? Call dude “B”. And when “B” is too much hassle? I guess we start grunting in dude’s general direction. Like the monkeys we truly are. Perfect. ]]]
A curse is merely an exclamation of frustration or surprise, an expression of anger.
My ex-mother-in-law used to say, “Fudge Cookies!” as a curse, which I found horribly abusive of the Power of Words. Then she would get this proud look on her face, as though to say, “Isn’t it cute that I said ‘Fudge Cookies’ instead of ‘Fuck’?”
I wish just once I’d told her, “No, it isn’t cute, because you’re still saying, ‘Fuck’. Otherwise, you wouldn’t find yourself nearly so clever.”
My mom drops curses all the time, but tacks on, “Sorry, God,” to the end of her sentence. So her abuse of the Power of Words might sound something like this:
“Ouch! That damn thing is hot! Bitch! Sorry, God!” I don’t really think she’s sorry. And moreover, I don’t think God believers her, either. Or G-d. Or whatever we’re calling deities now. I personally like Zeus.
I would really like someone to tell me the difference between the following curses:
“Ow! Who left their fucking shoes in the middle of the living room again?”
“Ow! Who left their daggone shoes in the middle of the living room again?”
It’s the same message! But one is more “acceptable” than the other. One is deemed less socially “correct” — although some of the shoes these social judges like leave me astounded (pointy-toed shoes are considered pretty? Really? I think they’re FUGLY!).
One is deemed less imaginative than the other, in spite of the fact that they are both fairly common — but you’ve heard the argument that we should be smart enough to think of a “better” word than “fuck”, right?
So using “daggone” in place of “fuck” makes me smarter and more creative? Really? Why? Because social programming told you to think so. Use logic, and you can dismiss the nonsense. Ladies of the south, you don’t have to be slave to your crazy upbringing. Drop the F-bomb. It will feel so nice in your mouth.
Guess what? If you say, “daggone”, you are still cursing anyway (see the definition above if you doubt me on this). So don’t be such a damn wuss. Just go all out and make it good. Drop the euphemisms. Take hold of the Power of Words and say something worth cussing about.
PS – Although this article was originally written this past April, uncanny timing found my good friend Aaron @dadblunders writing on a similar topic earlier this week at his blog. Be sure to check out his post, called “Cursing, Children, History and More”, & add to the conversation.
This post is part of the great bloggy-blog recovery process.
During the month of April 2012 Andi-Roo participated in the
wherein she posted every day that month
blogging thematically from A to Z.
Her theme revolved around issues about which she feels passionate.
Andi-Roo was told not to apologize for this.