Saturday, April 02, 2005

The new "bad"

Or should that be "good"?

"When you're good, you're good, and when you're bad, you're really good", is that how the saying goes? These days you often see and hear people describing themselves using what used to be disparaging expressions. Men proudly admit that they're disrespectful egoists, women parade that they're bitchy (with or without writing it as abbreviation of some odd phrase).

In general, it seems as if people are fond of using phrases that used to be disrespectful to describe themselves or their peers. Mimi in NY writes something that I've been thinking about myself:
On the way home from Queens I stopped outside a Newsagents, and listened to a group of black kids talking.

"Yo, motherfuckin' nigger jus' popped the filippino down, tellin yo' man, that nigger is bad"

They noticed me listening and grinned at me. I asked them if it's ever OK for a white person, indeed any person, to use the word 'nigger'.
All the while adjectives like "kind", "sweet" and "symphatetic" are being associated with weakness. Do women think they have to be "bitchy" in order to be respected, or is it that women who claim respect are considered to be "bitchy"? Maybe the two are freely interchangable. Do guys think that they have behave even more like assholes if they see a woman speak her mind in order to be considered more "manly"?

And it get's even worse if the slang gets so widespread that it replaces the proper wording. Imagine being on vacation in, for example, Germany, eating at a bar or inn. You enjoy the meal very much and would like to compliment the chef. He comes to your table, and you say "This food is 'the shit'!"

On the other hand, you can't have the rules of language set in stone. As an evolving race, we need an evolving language. We cannot require everyone to follow the rules simply for them being rules. How would we describe the Internet in the terms and rules from the 19th century? In the case of language, rules are definitely meant to be broken. And then fixed, only to be broken again. As has been done many times before, or we would still be using strange words like "muggy" even today.

Some people might not know where the line is between what is accepted and what is not, for the area arund it is incredibly unclear and wholly dependant on the people standing around it. But remember that language is for communicating; if misunderstandings occur, try to find a different way of saying what you want.

Since Dictionary.com is my friend, I follow that definition. Most of the women who describe themselves as bitchy are probably not really "female canine animals" or "lewd women", but just people with a personality standing up for themselves.

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