Archive for the ‘Language’ Category

I wasn’t sure what I might want to write about today. It wasn’t a very exciting day — a nice, quiet Sunday. I did cast off a pair of socks (my second pair for March), and I definitely need to do a sock post, but that means remembering to take pictures when there is decent lighting to be had. I haven’t committed to the next book I am going to read yet, but as I was looking into the Patricia Highsmith collection, I came across a couple of contenders, and one of them got me to thinking about one of my linguistic pet peeves.

One possibility is East of Hounslow by Khurrum Rahman, an author who was born in Pakistan and grew up in London. The tagline on the front cover is: “From small-time drug dealer to MI5’s reluctant secret weapon.” The cover art has a kind of vintage feel, and I tend to be drawn in by the look and feel of a book, so I gave it a try.

The book starts with a quote from Gandhi: “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” Chapter one opens with the protagonist introducing himself, identifying as a Muslim, explaining what that means in his specific case, and describing his experience as a British-born Muslim. This is a perspective and experience quite different from my own, so I was intrigued. “Sign me up,” I thought.

In the third paragraph, the profanity started, and I was a little less inclined to keep reading. (I probably will because I am interested in this character and his journey.)

It wasn’t a lot of profanity, but it didn’t serve a purpose either. I know that lots of people are free and easy with the expletives these days. I don’t find it offensive so much as unnecessary, annoying, and distracting. A well-chosen expletive can be extremely satisfying and get a point across when more genteel language just won’t do.

These days, however, profanity is as common as punctuation … or the ubiquitous (and equally annoying in my world) “like.” I end up thinking that the person just needs a more expansive vocabulary.

Certain four-letter expletives are everywhere these days, and I wonder if they are losing some of their potency. There is usually an asterisk or two in the words, so they haven’t become completely acceptable.

I’m not out to censor profanity at all. If you want to use it, have at it. But is the word or expression you are using really the most appropriate or effective choice for the sentiment or idea you are trying to communicate?

It’s a minor irritation in the grand scheme of things, but it has made me think more about word choice, and not only when it comes to profanity. There are plenty of words which feel … lazy or generic to me. Saying something is stupid or good or bad. Really? Is that the best description I can use?

Even as I wrote this post, I struggled with some of my word choices. In a few instances, I don’t particularly like the choice I made, but I couldn’t think of a better choice. If I come up with words or phrases I prefer, I might come back and edit. In the meantime, I am going to go with the flow and send my linguistic musings out into the world.

P.S. Hello, new followers! ~waves~ Welcome to my little corner of the internet.

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