Offensive Words: Literal Meaning or Connotations

So many people are offended by words, specific words, words considered profane, vulgar or obscene. I’ve always been baffled by the concept. As children we are taught (at least my generation was) that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

I remember when one of my nephews was around eleven or twelve we had a discussion about ‘cussing’. He thought it was a sin to say words that had been deemed curses. I explained to him that simply wasn’t the case. There are no specific words in the Old or New Testament that are sinful. It is however a sin to take the Lord’s name in vain (that includes God bless you if you don’t mean it), to speak against the Lord and to swear by heaven or earth. There are words that offend people and I suggested he should take that into consideration before adding them to his everyday vocabulary.

Photo provided by stillsearc & freeimages.com

Photo provided by stillsearc & freeimages.com

Connotations are usually the culprit when someone is offended, and humans are responsible for attaching the connotations making them good or bad. For example: why is it okay to say poo or poop but not okay to say shit? All three words refer to excrement. If you are offended by talk of bodily functions, all three words should be taboo.

Now here is the biggy. The F word. Yes I mean fuck. There are many theories about the origin of this word, most notably that it derived from Fornication Under Consent of King or For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. Most likely, “it came into English in the 15th century from something like Low German, Frisian or Dutch.[…] it typically meant ‘to strike’.” Source One could speculate that it’s connected to the act of sexual intercourse because it’s a kind of hitting. Yes, crude. Keep in mind that the word sex, even to identify gender, wasn’t used in conversation until modern times.

So, should I be offended by words that refer to bodily functions? Should I forget the origin of words and take offense to their modern connotations?

I’m not exactly sure any words offend me, but there are a few that startle me into a negative state. One in particular might surprise you.

Sexy: When I hear this word I think of objectification, provocation. In truth, the word’s origins confirm my thoughts. “adj. 1905, from sex (n.) + -y (2). Originally “engrossed in sex;” sense of “sexually attractive” is 1923, first in reference to Valentino. An earlier word in this sense was sexful (1898).” Another definition of sexy is, “being erotically attractive to another.”

Although the word is now used to mean ‘excitingly appealing; glamorous’ and tacked onto objects like cars and jewelry it makes me a bit uncomfortable. I’m a ‘less is more’ kind of gal and the fact that sex sells saddens me.

So, what words offend you or make you uncomfortable? Are you offended by their connotations or their meanings?

“sexy.” Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian. 09 Oct. 2014. .

  • Interesting. I have a positive connotation for “sexy.” I think sex is a positive thing, though I do see how it can become negative when (over)used by the media. I like most profanity. I think “bad” words are wonderfully useful!

    • I agree that sex is a positive thing, but I also think it should be private. I have a potty mouth. Sometimes the only words that can adequately convey what your thinking and feeling are “bad”. I’m not easily offended, but realize many people are and I try to keep that in mind when having conversations. 😉