Murphy\’s Bye-Laws

Law #4: Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it. –H.D. Thoreau

Watch Your Language

Posted by PintofStout on January 18, 2006

Language plays a huge role in the way the world perceives us.  Yet, many people use so little care in the language they allow to dribble from their foul, uncreative mouths.  Individuals can inject harsh invectives and cuss words with a frequency that dilutes not only the particular word that is overused but everything in the proximity, including the point.  Some listeners’ (or readers) tolerances for four-letter words are greater than others’, but the least tolerant should not scar us away from such juicy, powerful words.  When used properly, cuss words, by the virtue of their taboo, can have extra pizzazz that other words can not convey.

When describing the experience of treading on a profuse pile of excrement, it is much more effective (you know, for effect) to say you stepped in a pile of shit.  The word shit portrays to the reader all the characteristics associated with a word as dirty as the object described; the smell is smellier, the texture is nuttier, and the appearance is more vivid and real than a pile of crap, poop or excrement.  Likewise, the word fuck, the taboo word most endangered by overuse, can really add venom or passion to a phrase.  But, when any of the “cuss” words are overused, the speaker or writer will appear vulgar, crude, ignorant, and of limited vocabulary.  One reason why this is so, is directly related to misplaced cuss words; they set off some taboo alarm in the listener’s head and their attention and interest is lost.  The other reason, which isn’t particular for cuss words, is that the language is boring.  Try saying “like” repeatedly in between phrases or use “nice” as the only modifier in your speech and the results will be the same.  But, more importantly, people will judge by the clues the vocabulary and speech present.  If the speech is crude and ignorant, so must be the originator. (I find racist, bigoted speech to be just as ignorant for the content as the usual crude, low-brow language it is spewed in.  There may be link betwixt the two, no?)

The individual, alone, is not wholly responsible for misused speech.  Some strong and meaningful words can be overused by many, many individuals and groups (a.k.a. culture), thus diminishing their effectiveness.  Words and phrases with once strong and serious connotations today are near meaningless or opposite what they used to mean.  Love, patriotism, hero, and outrage are examples of words over-employed by sensationalists like reporters, advertisers and politicians for their extra-strong meaning.  The frivolous – not to mention misplaced and outright wrong – usage has soured the meanings of these words and turned them to shit.  It used to be you wouldn’t tell someone you loved them without being really sure.  Now you can say you love ice cream, baseball, and your favorite shirt; then telling your mother you love them carries no more weight than that.  These misuses are not directly reflected on the individual using them, but they do lessen the effectiveness of our language and thus the ability to communicate more completely with each other (Euphemisms and cliché fall into this category).

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