One thing I’ve come to realize is that, in Spain, curse words just aren’t the same. For one, there’s so many of them. Spanish’s number is much higher than English’s and I’m sure English is jealous. Moreover, the curse words themselves are highly versatile. They can be using in much more varied situations. It’s quite impressive, really, to hear a Spaniard slip one in when you’re leasting expecting it … BANG! But they remain unphased. For them, a casual “joder” is no different from me saying, “Oh, darn,” and hardly offensive. Nonetheless, I was slow to realize this due to Mario’s careful insistence on not using such words around me. I had to pick it up from outsiders who stop by to have lunch or join us at a café.
I, for one, will never be allowed to use them, as Mario generally detests that sort of thing. (Okay, so “allowed” is not the right word, but why use them if he doesn’t like them?) But it’s difficult for me because the words themselves mean very little to me. Think about it: how much would it mean to you if I called you something astoundingly bad if you had no idea what it meant? Nothing. The words themselves do not hold power. We, as humans, give the power to the words. Thus, the word f*** is not a BAD word; it’s a word used in a bad way. I am not advising you to start using it in polite conversation, peppering your work conversations with it. No, what I want us to realize is that we, the people, are the owners of language.
I can see this even more in linguistics. No language is static. Everyday, our language changes. That’s why we have websites like Urban Dictionary. Even as English speaker, I use it. People make up new idioms and phrases daily. Things change. Think about the English in Shakespeare’s time. Today, I can barely understand it (and if you’re honest, neither can you). But back in his day, it was easy, clear, concise. Crazy to think about, isn’t it?
So, the next time someone laments that our poor English language is in some horrid state of decline, remember this: they’ve been saying that for centuries. And not just about English: Latin, French, Italian, etc. Our language is not something to which we can cling – it’s going to change and in a few generations it will certainly be different. In a few centuries, we might have trouble understanding it. Any more than that and it’s a foreign (while domestic) language.