The power of words are tremendous. The use of words has evolved as society as evolved and in doing so society has chosen to penalize specific words, not really for their meaning (although that is what they claim) but because they don’t like how the word(s) are used.
Words are just words unless YOU empower them to be more than that. If you infuse a word with a meaning of any emotion be it hate, love, cuteness, ugliness or any emotion then it is you that has a problem, not that word. The word exists solely to communicate some meaning, words do not have emotions attached to them, they simply are. Sure, the person SAYING the word can also infuse it with a meaning but that should not effect YOU. When people started to call me Faggot Josh it did offend me, I will admit that, being a heterosexual and being called a Faggot got to me, it was that whole attacking manhood to elevate oneself above others philosophy. But I soon realized that it was the people calling me that who had the problem, not me. They were insecure about themselves and attempting to project onto me their petty hatreds and for a while I let them win, it did get to me, it really did. Now, I don’t care, I see these people as the scared children they are and that is the same thing that you need to do when you see some racist use the term nigger or kike. People that will call a black man a nigger or call someone with the last name Goldberg a kike, well those people have a problem and are trying to use a word that society has deemed as a slur to hurt. They are simply showing their overall immaturity and their weaknesses, not yours. These are people that will make no notable contribution to society and are therefore relegated to this empowering of words. If you try to ban their use of specific words they gain ground on you, they have effected how YOU see the world and how YOU react to their words.
Scott Murray likes to tell that since language and words are fluid and do evolve with society (for good or ill) that I have no right to complain about how ‘lol’ and idiotic internet slang is making it’s way into mainstream culture. I disagree greatly on this. There comes a point when words stop being what they were intended to be and in turn become what the great unwashed alter them to become. Words are indeed fungible. Look at how a word like “gay” went from being something that meant HAPPY to being a slur for homosexual. Look at how a word like “boner” was once meant to represent a mistake and had nothing to with an erection. I know that might sound like it goes against what I just said in the previous paragraph but I believe it is true. While YOU do empower or depower a word you have to be careful to not allow those very same ignorant masses to co-op the language and turn it from something fluid into something closer to sewage. I don’t mean individual words here, I mean entire sea changes to language. There does come a point where devolution is the only explanation for how words make their way into everyday use. On the net you see people using textese and while I hate that, it is how they wish to be viewed so that is there burden, on the other hand when textese is used in speech and in everyday conversation out of either laziness or out of ignorance then it becomes something more. There is a vast, VAST difference between a person that uses a specific phrase out of ignorance and one that does it out of laziness. If you don’t know any better how can you really be held accountable? On the other hand if you use ‘lol’ yet you know better, you are committing literary vandalism and that is where I see the issues for the future. The people that use textese in everyday life are the same people that CHOOSE to remain ignorant and CHOOSE not to learn. Those people scare me as I think they far outnumber those like myself that have a vocabulary and know how to use it.
With this fluidity that language has there is also the unfortunate side effect of losing words with the addition of new words or to be more specific losing the context of words as they were used in the past. Read any novel or short story from Howard Phillip Lovecraft and you will find yourself immersed into early 1900 language in such a way that many younger readers simply can not read his work. I heard one person (maybe 20 years old) that it was like trying to read something in Spanish when you only speak French. Many of the old pulp authors wrote in what was then perfectly normal prose, but today that prose has been lost to time. There was that example I gave last year in this very column where Twilight fans refuse to even give the original Bram Stoker Dracula a chance due to it’s use of “old timey” words. The language changed and not in just that way, in other more obvious ways as well. Look at works like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, they used terms like nigger as if there was no stigma attached to it… because there wasn’t. Society had decided years later that nigger was not an acceptable term to use in pleasant company and therefore the book was actually taken out of schools and just last year it was decided that the word nigger would be ERASED from the book in subsequent printings for schools. This goes beyond the literary vandalism I spoke of before, this is OFFENSIVE and oppressive. They are trying to make you think how they want you to think and they are removing your free will to think as you choose. You can and must choose for yourself what offends you in language and if something does offend you then it is up to you to deal with it, not society to negate that “offending” term.
I don’t give words power like so many people do. I refuse to use a term like “The N-Word”, it’s nigger. There is nothing that a word like nigger has that another word used with hate and ignorance does not have, but when you use terms that attempt to remove the power of the word you are in actuality giving it more. A racial slur for example is only as powerful as you allow it to be, the word has no power except for the meaning YOU assign to it. The word in and of itself is just a word the same as any other word but when YOU give it a higher meaning or a more powerful meaning you are letting that word control you. When you use a term like “The N-Word” you are censoring yourself, even at a primal level, and by doing that you are allowing your thoughts to be controlled by others. When “acceptable society” does not allow you use a word like fag, if that is the word you so choose to use, they are engaging in mind control, society is telling you that even thinking of that nasty, dirty, disgusting word is wrong and by doing so society is allowing those that use words like faggot to win, they got what they wanted, they got you to feel hurt by something they said. Someone calls you a faggot YOU allow them to have power over how you feel. Is that what you want? Remove the power from these ‘bad’ words. Use kike, nigger, slope, cracker, redneck, faggot, heeb, zipperhead, spearchucker, porch monkey, wetback, anal pirate, rug muncher, gash, dyke, hadji, camel jockey, chink, coon, towelhead, retard, redskin, yank and any other slur. Don’t let these words censor you or let you slip into this self-perpetuating cycle of words that are more than words. Beware though that inherent in some words are an ignorance that is inescapable. YOU control how much a word can help or hurt, YOU do this, not someone else.
Language can indeed be this fluid thing that I see happening, whether I think it is going the correct direction or not, but it must never be given the power to alter the way YOU think and you must always be weary of those that wish to control not just what you think but HOW you think. The best and smoothest of all censorship is that which you believe is not censorship.