Guest post by Michael Blaylock
Welcome back to one amateur's continuing exploration of things that make you taste soap. This is an open-minded journey, so feel free to chime in with your opinions and questions. Be warned, we'll actually be USING the words in question to properly study them. It's broken into multiple parts, with the first one being found here.
Last time we explored the religion-related bad words, so now for the ones deemed bad by general society.
Booty, Booty, DONKEY!
Another light cuss word is the ass. It has two meanings. A: a butt. B: A donkey. So we're either talking about the southern curvature of every human or the stubbornness of a donkey.
I don't know the bigger mystery: how ass became a bad word or how butt and donkey got the same short stick.
Some say ass is a sexual term, and thus inappropriate. But "butt" or "rear" can also be used sexually and ass can be used non-sexually (asshole, jackass, kick your ass). This is a usage thing, not an inherent definition. So it seems "ass" is no more inherently vulgar than "backside." We've just been told it has.
But perhaps some would argue that ass is a more "powerful" or "emphatic" form of butt. Well, there's a time and place for emphasis, so general boycotts are not reasonable. And once again, this is something we've been taught. It's how the word is used, not why the word itself is bad.
So is usage the only real problem? Calling someone an asshole (comparing them to an anus) is not nice, they say. Well, we covered why "not nice" is not a good enough reason in the introduction (Jesus called people names), and perhaps it's an apt descriptor. If someone just spews crap all day, maybe calling them an asshole is succinct.
As for the donkey reference, I have no idea why donkey is okay but ass is not, or why it's socially unacceptable to compare someone to a donkey.
Personally, I see nothing wrong with this word. If you can say butt and donkey, why not ass? As always, mind your audience.
The Female Dog
Bitch has so many uses and definitions it's insane. I'll start with the Merriam Webster online dictionary definitions and branch out from there.
A: A female dog. Yes, even the literal, legal, first-entry definition is a cuss word now. Why? I have no idea. Probably the lower connotations.
B. An undesirable lady. The second MW definition. This particular usage is not to deride all women, just the ones we want to punch. It's a sort of generic cuss word that separates the good women from the bad ones. That in mind, it's not necessarily a bad thing because while it's limited to one gender, it's not gender-oriented.
C. Something unpleasant (Life's a bitch and then you die). Also in MW. This has no gender connotation...I think. If you're saying life sucks like a yappy little dog, fine. If you're saying life sucks like a woman, not so fine.
D. A complaint. Bitching is whining. Again, this COULD refer to women, but usually doesn't. Why is that a bad thing, then? This is the last MW definition. Now on to the street terms.
E. A wimp. Also not a problem definition...necessarily. We can say wimp, but not bitch? However, some may think it's bad to call someone a bitch because you're basically equating their weakness with femininity. In my locker room experiences, this wasn't the case. A boy who was a bitch was a wimp. A girl who was a bitch was hated. Sharp difference there, BUT this is only my experience. Yours may have been different.
F. A sex slave. Yep, that's the prison term. If you're somebody's bitch, you're the "catcher," as it were. It's not always literal, but...not the most pleasant connotation. Especially since it's not often a consensual thing. I'd stay away from this definition.
G. All women. This is the gangster rap definition. This is the one time I'd agree that it's absolutely wrong to use this word because it derides women not on their character, but the simple act of being a women. Gender discrimination bad, yo.
That's a lot of possible definitions. For this word, I suppose it depends on where your heart is when you say it. Are you insulting femininity? Bad! Bad! Don't do that again! Are you talking about a complaint, a dog, or just someone you don't like based on their character? Probably okay.
As usual, consider your audience.
The Guy Equivalent
Bastard is another word with more than one definition. The most literal is a person born out of wedlock. And in this day and age, it's really not insulting anymore. TONS of people were born to unmarried parents. Sure, the Bible says that's wrong, but why are you insulting the child? It wasn't his fault.
As a base definition, this word is fine. As an insult? Well, it doesn't make a lot of sense.
However, bastard has also come to be the male equivalent of bitch, meaning an undesirable man. Your boyfriend bought you flowers? What a gentleman. He cheated on you? The bastard! Like bitch, this word attacks a man based on his actions, not his genitalia. And if jerk is not a bad word, perhaps bastard shouldn't be in this context either, unless, of course, it's writing off an entire gender as evil.
Other than that, the word just means illegitimate, twisted, or questionable. Mulan II is a bastardization of the original. This is a callback to the original definition, so what's wrong with that?
Here's another cuss word I just don't understand. Shit. Poop. Dung. Crap. Feces. Turd. They're all the same thing. Why are five of those words perfectly acceptable descriptors, yet one is cast out like a leper?
Even Merriam Webster online says it's "usually vulgar," but why is it? Who decreed that word was bad, but not the others? Granted, the subject matter requires a bit of maturity, but how did it gain an ungainly connotation?
I got nothing. Someone explain that to me. I guess people use it to compare a person or situation to fecal matter, meaning they reeeaally don't like it. And what's wrong with such a poignant allusion? And yet again, a Christian can call someone a turd and not get their hand slapped, but calling them a piece of shit? POW! Ruler across the knuckles.
That seems silly to me. So in that sense, I have no problem with this word.
More words tomorrow...God have mercy on my soul.