Monday, January 24, 2005

Words and Meaning

I have been in the book of James this past week. I caused me to ponder the use of language and speech. Coincidentally (or not) Wifey-Pooh was also considering the use of words, and we had an interesting discussion, as oft is the case.

The passage that prompted my consideration is from James chapter 1, verse 26
If someone thinks he is religious yet does not bridle his tongue, and so deceives his heart, his religion is futile.

While I was in NC, I worked long hours, but had trouble sleeping at night due to both the time change and the separation from my family. I tend to tinker with information when I find myself bored, and I happened to come across a definition for the "f word" on While I always doubted the "for unlawful carnal knowledge" explaination, I had not found an authoritative reference up until now.

It got me thinking (and I had a LOT of time for that last week) about language and its uses, especially in light of the passage I was studying. What makes a word a cuss word? If words are merely symbols attached with a commonly accepted meaning, then what makes one word offensive and another acceptible?

And why do they tend to be four letters, anyway?

I think most words considerd to be vulgar have suffer from perfjoration, and commonly the words are interpreted in a sexual nature or for the humiliation of others. For the most part, obscenity I am able to tolreate, although I find it unpleasant. Profanity, on the other hand, I cannot stand for. I tend to view individuals who punctuate their speech with obscenity and profanity for expletives as less articulate (correctly) and even less intelligent (not necessarily).
Wifey-Pooh and I agree that expletives contribute to such a perception, so we have resovled to become accurate in our communication. Instead of "this sucks" I will likely state "this is highly unpleasant" or "that is unfortunate". The meaning is just so much more clear.

Although I doubt James was referring to accuracy in communication, I believe that the careful avoidance of obscenity and profanity is part of the meaning. More likely, James was referring to the meaning we convey, whether our speech is littered with expletives or not. Thus, speaking articluately and with clear meaning with a calm demeanor does not absolve me from injuring someone with my words. After all, the notion of "would you kiss your mother with that mouth" also applies to whether one should praise God with the same tongue.

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