WRITING: On Language and Change

It is understood that language changes with time. The easiest way to see this is when invention and technology produce something for which language has no words. Harder to make the transition in both understanding and common usage is connotation. Words that have either a colloquial or common meaning that is harmless may change to hold a more derogatory or degrading meaning dependent upon society’s use. Racial slurs have their seeds in this, as well as medical terms such as “mentally retarded” being shortened to “retard” and it’s subsequent use as a denigrating put-down. Transition goes both ways. Nice to see the word “fuck” recyle itself back into acceptability I suppose.

Such is the case with the word “girl,” which in its time has simply been a term for a young human female, covering a span of infancy to a time of adulthood where the term “woman” may more accurately be applied. Over a period of generations, the term “girl” has been used in an overlapping manner, dependent upon the individual and group perception, i.e., “girls’ night out” can properly and respectfully extend to a group otherwise known as “women” well into their later years.

The term “girl” however has also developed as a derogatory meaning for wimpy, less than man, inferior, when applied to character or performance. “Don’t be such a girl.”  “You run like a girl.”  etc.

Therefore, I am proposing that the community of The Politically Correct advance this as a cause, and restrict to the point of referring to it as “the G word” and find a suitable replacement to cover its original meaning before further offense is taken.

Of course, this is tongue-in-cheek. It goes beyond political correctness to the principle of freedom of speech, and that’s more what I’m concerned with.

I guess I’d say I uphold our right to be ignorant and obnoxious (though don’t approve of either) and wish to deny to the government the right to outlaw specific language, as a mother might take away a toy from a child who has abused it, like cutting the hair off a doll or burying a plastic truck in the backyard. Words are offensive if misused, and that’s up to our real mamas to teach us. That words can hurt and that comes under caring and consideration. The federal government is attempting to make up for the slackness on the part of family by becoming both Mother and Miss Manners. And that scares me.


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