Friday, October 5, 2007

"What the French, Toast?"

I have heard my entire life that it is not what you say, but how you say it. So in general I try to use a respectful tone, yet still avoid talking like a sailor at all costs and if salty words unintentionally slip out of my mouth I am usually quite embarrassed before the word even hits the floor.

But what if that word has no impact behind it? Is it still a "bad" word? What is worse, the word or the emotion carrying it?

In the 7th grade I had the world's coolest gym teacher, Mr. Lang. At the time he was old, probably 35 or something ancient like that and a father. Looking back I think he may have even been a believer, but you can never tell your students that piece of controversial info.

Mr. Lang was assigned the lovely task of teaching a bunch of giggly 13 and 14 year olds about the human body and puberty, which most of us had passed with flying colors already. One way he avoided having to embarrass us by making us ask questions out loud, was by having each student anonymously write down questions which he would read and answer aloud the next day.

Seeing that this was a co-ed class, some dumb boy (I have to assume) dared to go there. He asked what the meaning was of the granddaddy of bad words. You know the one. If it looks like a duck and rhymes with duck...

Mr. Lang did not destroy the question nor ignore it as someone else may have, he read it and proceeded to answer it. His answer I have sadly just looked up on Wikipedia and found out it is more than likely false, but Mr. Lang did not have the benefit of the internet, just gym teacher folklore to fall back on. His point being that in its original use the word was not something vulgar. Just an acronym, used in legal proceedings in England and Ireland. Did I mention that Mr. Lang was Irish?

Regardless of the real meaning of the word, that explanation certainly helped take the bang out of the word for me. Culturally it is still an ugly word when used in anger and one I do not use nor like hearing, but it really has no meaning as just a word. And I would respect cultural norm in another country and not use the word "bananaclip", if it would reasonably offend another person.

Please note that I am not talking about people using the Lord's name out of context. I cringe at that in any way it is used besides in reverence, holiness or in awe. What I am referring to are all those other words we have culturally deemed, "bad".

There is a Orbit gum commercial out now that cracks me up when I see it, but yet I paused it when viewing it on YouTube when Xena came into the room. There was no reason to pause it per se, since not one bad word came out of their mouths. Or did it? You be the judge. Is it what we say or how we say it? Maybe a combination of the two?



4 comments:

Carolyn said...

My 2 cents: if the boys heard that, they would right away get upset, not because of what they were saying, but how they were saying it. They would sense the tension and the body language and know what was being said wasn't nice.

Carolyn said...

Though, it was funny! and the boys are outside and didn't hear it

Mrs. Sam said...

I have to confess, I did turn down the volume and almost felt naughty watching it. I really do believe its the presumption behind the meaning...we've been conditioned.
Funny though too...

Susie said...

Okay. Okay. I'm still laughing. But you're so right. Nothing naughty is said...but the intonation and usage implies something "not so nice."

And you gave us the link to Wiki...but not to the word directly...I had to type it in myself. :o) I feel like I should go wash my hands. LOL!