I’ve blogged before about the coy use of asterisks and other non-letters to write a rude word without actually write a rude word. This habit gave birth to “the F-word” and “the C-word” and “the N-word”. I decry this. If you want to write “fuck” just do it. If you want to use less coarse language, write “copulate” or a more precise and acceptable word to substitute for one of the ocean of other meanings that “fuck” has acquired.
I came across a new alphabetical euphemism in a recent Guardian Weekly: “the P-word”. It was in an article about racism in English cricket, specifically in Yorkshire. There was no glossary or footnote to explain this neologism. Can you, dear reader, explain it to me?
On the other hand there are some highly objectionable words that seem to pass muster. I am a fan of Judge Judy (deep down I think we all are) and I just finished watching an episode in which a plaintiff referred to the defendant as “white trash”. This manages to be doubly objectionable:
- It reduces an individual and a whole social class to the status of rubbish.
- It implies that all non-whites are trash, so a modifier has to be applied only if the person being insulted happens to be white. “Black trash” would be a tautology.
It takes flair to insult so many people with only two words; or stratospheric stupidity; or mega-misanthropy.
Another such word in “bogan”, which exists only in Australia I think. It is defined as “an uncultured and unsophisticated person; a boorish and uncouth person.” No-one’s sure of the origin of the word, but there’s a Bogan River in New South Wales. Anyway, there’s no way of using the word in a non-derogatory way. Thus it is different from “larrikin”, “rascal” or “Pommy bastard”.
While we’re on the subject of the injuries sustained by the English language, don’t forget to submit your entry for the 2022 Stroppy Git Award for Meaningless Twaddle (aka The Stroppy). Closing date: Saturday 15 January (noon GMT). Announcement of the winner: 17 January.