Words Just Too Dirty to Say Out Loud
Get a bar of soap. Wash your mouth out. This is how bad our language has gotten: Only a handful of words are so foul-mouthed and truly awful that they can be considered taboo, according to the authors of the new edition of the Collins English Dictionary, which is published in Great Britain.
In fact, there are only 16 such words left in the English language. You can guess one of them. It begins with an "f."
London's Telegraph newspaper says the rest have been downgraded to mere "slang." In fact, these same editors predict that the asterisks writers use to soften taboo words in print will soon become an historical nicety. No ****!
To come to this radical conclusion that there are only 16 really nasty words left in our language, the editors of the Collins English Dictionary examined hundreds of millions of words that are used by the media. The reasoning is that if a word is commonly uttered by TV reporters or written by newspaper journalists, then it's acceptable in everyday conversation. Jeremy Butterfield, the dictionary's editor, told The Telegraph, "There is a certain amount of subjectivity about this. It is not automatically the case that repeated use 'de-taboos' words. It's to do with the majority view that such-and-such a word is not acceptable. There can be new taboo words, not ones to do with body parts, but ones addressing race or sexuality."
When we hear these bad words on television, it has an interesting effect, according to a British media watchdog group called Mediawatch-uk: It devastates our communication skills. "Far from there being a natural evolution in language, there has been a consistent effort to promote obscenity, swearing, and profanity against the wishes of most people," Mediawatch-uk said in a statement. "The effect of this on educational standards and communication skills has been devastating."
And that's part of the point: We curse in order to shock. But we've cursed so much, it's lost it's ability to shock. There was a time not too long ago when it was just not acceptable to curse. Parents didn't swear at their kids, and kids--if they had any sense at all--didn't swear (within earshot) of their parents. Teachers didn't swear at their students. Coaches never swore--publicly. And remember those seven words that were never ever uttered on television? Yeah, you can hear them almost every night now on your favorite cable TV shows. Something has changed.
James O'Connor says that what we say and how we say it is a reflection of who we are. And we don't look so fine right now. To that end, O'Connor has founded the Cuss Control Academy in Lake Forest, Illinois and written a book called "Cuss Control."
O'Connor has devised the cure for the common curse:
10 Tips for Taming Your Tongue
- Recognize that swearing does damage.
- Start by eliminating casual swearing.
- Think positively.
- Practice patience.
- Cope, don't cuss.
- Stop complaining.
- Seek alternative words.
- Make your point politely.
- Think of what you should have said instead.
- Work at it.
And it never hurts to hear Mom's voice in your head telling you to mind your mouth.