Forgotten Meanings

October 3, 2010
By Sarah Hardtke BRONZE, Ossining, New York
Sarah Hardtke BRONZE, Ossining, New York
3 articles 0 photos 0 comments

‘Hey b****’
‘You’re so gay.’
‘That’s retarded.’

These phrases are casually strewn across streets and school hallways on a daily basis, and in the utilization of these words, we are unconsciously characterizing ourselves as blissfully ignorant individuals. Excuses are easily provided; ‘It doesn’t mean anything,’ ‘I’m using it with my friends,’ ‘It’s casual conversation.’ Is using a term which originated as a racial slur, used to enforce a power paradigm, sustain slavery, and maintain a profound hatred and repulsion toward the African-American community, casual conversation? How about calling one of your girlfriends a canine? Or using a classified mental disorder, effecting up to 3 percent of the population, including brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers, in referring to somoneas stupid? Sounds like it’s time for a revaluation.

There’s no denying that derogatory terms have become embedded in our society, culture, and language. So, one lingering question arises-why? Why is language that should be looked upon with disdain, disgust, so often intertwined with classroom conversation? Perhaps one aspect of society at fault is the media, as music, television, and magazines use demeaning language, it’s in turn deemed socially acceptable. But next time you’re singing along to the top 100 on the radio, maybe you should realize you’re inadvertently calling yourself a ‘stupid chicken head,’ and simultaneously stating that you should ‘get retarded, right now.’

Another perspective is that in utilizing derogatory language in casual conversation, words which once encompassed negative connotations are being redefined as terms of endearment and affection. Some perceive that in exchanging words like, ‘s***,’ ‘hoe,’ and ‘N****’, the power which these words once held upon society is disintegrated in face of empowering one’s self. While utilizing a negative to establish a positive is to be commended, isn’t there an irony in demeaning oneself, to empower oneself? In the casual inclusion of derogatory language, we are in actuality empowering prejudice, sexism, racism, and homophobia; we are enforcing, and strengthening, society’s limitations; we are undermining, almost mocking, the actions of passionate activists throughout history. Talk about taking one step forward, to take two steps back.

But, I believe that at the core of derogatory word use, lies a blatant, binding restriction upon human mentality and progression; ignorance. We are not individuals whom resort to demeaning words so as to inflict pain or enforce social stereotypes, rather, we are individuals unaware of the depth of our own words. Language is the most profound mode of communication, but its profane power has been deteriorated by void-less words, demeaning language, and a blindness toward the impact of our own speech.

Perhaps in order to foster a social and global environment defined by individuality and personal identity, we must take one more step back, look at language in the retrospective, and associate forgotten meanings with our words once again.

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This article has 1 comment.

RTALEB said...
on Oct. 15 2010 at 2:13 pm
I totally agree with your article. i never really realize it and im sure not many people do either but since those terms are just used everywhere we feel like they dont have double meaning but they do but sinceour society just throws it around in "casual conversation"they developed their own meaning which somepeople might  get offended to.


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