Note from the Editor-
The word “language” has at least two meanings. Firstly, it is a system of syllables and symbols through which we communicate meaning to each other. The origin of language has always been a mystery to me. How is it that we evolved from gestures and grunts to entire alphabets and sprawling lexicons? Where did it begin? Who was the first to look at the life-bringing source of heat and light, and call it “fire?” Because words aren’t just sounds or letters. They are a construct of our minds, and so they transcend the merely literal. I’ve had a couple friends bring up how difficult it can be to describe the simplest of things. For example, how can you explain what “red” is, or “blue,” to a person who can’t see? One person I know even argues against the existence of color outside of the human mind. The truth is, language is an organic and dynamic creature. It evolves alongside us, adapting to new ways of thinking while retaining its base, each word a culmination of years, decades, centuries of use. The bottom line is that we create words, and we give them meaning. We provide both context and an infinite web of associations that connect us to concepts and ideas beyond anything a few syllables could possess on their own. Any power words have over us, is power that we let them have.
So now we come to the second meaning of “language.” Language as the subsidiary components of this system we specifically choose to associate with vulgarities. The kind of “language” reserved for the uncouth and the immature. The kind of language that compels parents to shield their children’s ears with muffling hands. The soap-in-your-mouth kind of language.
I could go on.
But I think my point is made. There are words in existence that we as a society either shy away from, or embrace, due specifically to the power they possess. Words I can’t print. My question is- how did these words come to be? Some I can understand as being associated with suppression and bigotry. Even then, though, at some point we had to let these words take on the meaning they have now. My favorite author, Patrick Ness, said that “Power wins by convincing you that you’re disempowered.” And isn’t that true? Aren’t we disempowering ourselves by allowing these words to hold such force? By convincing ourselves that these arbitrary phonetic concatenations are “wrong,” in some way?
Oaths and expletives are universal. They’re a part of every language. So that means there’s something inside of us, as humans, that requires an outlet. A release. At the most basic level, language is a tool of expression. So why not let it express?
Thanks for reading,