The language that we uphold as holy is nothing more than random sounds echoing from our throats. Each word is just a variance of the grunts that signified things to our ancestors. Some words, however, hold an almost magical power in Western society. These are called swear words, cuss words, “bad”words, or curse words. They are taboo.
But in the end, they are just another possible combination of letter sounds that signify, in our language, something earth-shattering. Words that are more powerful than those of politicians. That can quiet down a court room, strike fear in people’s hearts, and offend some to no end. In this light, Derek rethinks words as he writes.
Derek writes all the time. He works on fiction every day and perhaps every other day, he writes on this blog. He writes stories, poems, and feature articles. He writes and writes and writes. So, maybe Derek was under the impression that words gave him power. Just a phrase can empower someone. But consider the origin of swear words. When considered, swear words may give people some power, but more so, people give power to the words.
The only reason words signify so much is because we make them signify a lot. Try cursing at someone in a language he or she does not understand. The meaningless of the words will be just as meaningless as the meaningless of other words meaningless to him or her. Meaning, that words can help communicate. But when you remove the symbolic meaning of the words, they are simply vague sounds that mean nothing.
This should affect both how we deal with people in society and how we write. We should rethink how much power we attribute to words. Words start wars after all, and there is of course the adage about the pen vs. sword. But the power words hold comes only from what society contributes.
The key to understand the paradox is much like wrapping your head around the question: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Man indeed first empowered words, but when did words begin to exude a power of their own much like the futuristic robotic sentinels that will bring mankind’s demise?
The power comes from a collective agreement that the power should exist. Much like the power the president holds or the power a king holds. If ever the people decided that words hold no power, then they may not be affected so much.
But if we were not affected by words as we are, would that be a good or bad thing?
If man were immune to the emotional impact of words, we would not be swayed by politicians, would instead approach things logically. We’d become a world of pseudo-Spocks. We also, however, could never be drawn in by the suspenseful atmosphere of a thriller. We would never laugh of hilarity of a humorous story. The emotional pull that helps some stories affect readers would be lost.
So, in a sense, to understand the implications of curse words is very important, Derek thought. If we desensitized ourselves to their effects, why would we need to ever use them? Their only purpose to sensationalize our speech. And so without a purpose, they become mere words, yes, but boring words.
If we allow curse words to continue to be taboo, to continue to offend us, we allow them to be truly used in the way they should be. Both in life and literature. We can still shock each other with them and anger each other.
While many people complain that people give too much power to curse words, I say we continue receiving the power from the words. As over the words, through the influence of society, the words garner more and more symbolic significance. And mean that much more.
In other words, curse words have an important function. And no, they should not be overused or forgotten completely. Because they have power. The origins of the power, as I said, are vague. The chicken and the egg problem.
Derek thought of all this and then turned his attention to more words, words that were not necessarily curse words, but offensive in their own right.