Friday, May 25, 2012

You Don't Even Know the Meaning of the Word

One Sunday morning during the summer of 2002, in my middle school Bible class, our regular teacher was out, so we were taught by a married couple whom all us junior high kids knew.  As one of the teachers was going over the lesson, she asked one of my classmates a question...but he/she must not have been paying attention, because he/she proceeded to ask, "What was the question again?" Everyone started laughing, including me, and I even went as far as to say to that kid, "You ignoramus!" At that, the entire class got quiet, and one of the teachers looked at me sternly and reprimanded me, saying, "[Siobhan], uh-uh.  There will be no name calling when I'm in charge."  I thought, What's your problem?! [He/she] ignored the question! Even after I got home, I turned on Super Smash Bros. Melee and played in multi-player mode with my character versus a computer-controlled Link and Zelda, whom I pretended was that married couple who had taught our class, and beat the snot out of them.  It wasn't until later that day, when my mom explained what the term "ignoramus" really meant--someone who is ignorant, not someone who ignores someone else--that I realized that I actually had made an inappropriate statement.
I bring that up for one reason: Whether used correctly or incorrectly, words have power.  I've always been a fan of little-known words; even with this blog, people have asked me about the meanings or usages of advanced terms such as "inane" or "coeval".  In years past, people have said that I "talk like a dictionary," sometimes even asking me to use simpler terms; I once was describing the fact that I have an astigmatism in one eye, and the only way I could get the other person to understand what I was trying to tell him/her was saying, "One eye doesn't work like it should."  Another time, a teacher was trying to describe my mental condition to a classmate, and used the word "autistic" to do so, but that kid kept saying, "Use small words!" The teacher glared at him/her and said, "There's no other word for it!"
That brings me to the point I want to make: One thing I've noticed is that repetition annoys people.  Whether it's a person who always says the same thing(s), an electronic device that--for whatever reason--repeats a sound over and over again, or an animal that won't stop making noise, people find that bothersome.  However, in recent years, I've noticed that people in general have become unable to express themselves without using profanities and/or euphemisms for them.  I was once sitting in the lounge at my college, trying to have an instant message conversation with a friend via the school's wireless, and had to go somewhere else because some young lady was on her cell phone ranting about some little girl--her little sister? her daughter? her niece? I may never know--wetting the bed, all the while using at least one profanity in each sentence.  As I was walking out, I thought to myself, Woman, you need to find some better words to express your feelings! Unfortunately, people like her are everywhere, and it only seems to be getting worse.
What I wonder is: Why aren't people annoyed by the overuse of profanity? If folks get bothered by a sitcom character using the same catchphrase in every episode, or a person whose only likes to talk about a select few things, or a radio station that plays the same songs every day, why doesn't the overuse of expletives do the same to them? Granted, I was raised in a house where the usage of such language led to punishment, which helped me learn to use other words (including so-called "dictionary talk") to express my feelings, so maybe I'm a bit biased...but I still feel that there are way too many people out there with small vocabularies.
In conclusion, let me say this: One tendency the denizens of this planet all seem to have is the desire for a "one size fits all" solution.  When a kid is acting up, or a computer is being troublesome, we look for one action we can take that will solve whatever issue(s) 100% of the time.  Unfortunately, that's rarely the case; whether it involves people, technology, or neither, there is usually a list of solutions that may or may not work.  The same is true for words; no matter what is going on in our lives, or what feeling(s) we want to express, we tend to turn to the same sayings--whether profane or not--almost every time.  You've probably noticed I have some catchphrases, such as, "In conclusion, let me say this," or, "It's story time again."  Sometimes, I wonder if people get tired of me using the same words or phrases all the time; however, everyone talks and writes in his/her own way, so, of course, that's just my trademark.  I grew weary of profanity years ago; after being bombarded with it upon starting middle school, it went from shocking to just repetitive and unoriginal.  Sure, using advanced language may not be everyone's strong suit, but, shouldn't everyone try to expand their horizons?
Any comments?

1 comment:

Julia D said...

I'm glad to read your observations. I noticed long ago that some movies contain such repetitive profanity that any other word used so frequentlya would be struck as bad writing. I totally agree with you that profane words are "allowed" to be repeated where others or not. What does this tell us about the mindset (and possibly the intentions) of those "gifted artists" who produce such scripts?