I’m a writer. This means I love words almost as much as I love names. Anyway, as such I’m always interested when words are created or when they fall out of fashion. The same applies to when people try to “reclaim” words, and their varying levels of success. And I’ll go ahead and place my allegiance right now– words bloody well can hurt me.
Anyway, here are a few notables.
One of my aunts groused that the word “niggardly” is practically no longer used. The word means “stingy” by the way. And apparently it depends on where you look, as to whether it’s used or not. While it may no longer appear in conversation or on spelling lists (and who would use it in conversation– one of Scrooge’s customers?) When I was reading about Elizabeth I, who was famous for being stingy, the word was used quite frequently.
My mother and I howled with laughter when the word “booty” was removed from a new edition of a certain Bible and replaced with the phrase “the spoils of war.” I can’t remember which Bible it was, so I won’t speculate (though I think I’d remember if it was NRSV), but I distinctly remember the cast of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” on NPR having merciless fun with it. “King David saw the spoils of war on the rooftop… and it was FINE!” Yeah. Less comment would have been made, probably had the powers that be left well enough alone. Just saying.
Some feminists want to reclaim words like “slut” and “cunt.” I hear that the Brits have done a pretty good job with the latter, and hell, I’d like to see it happen. Why is the vilest thing you can call someone a vagina? That in and of itself is vile. Admittedly, I’m skeptical about the words overcoming their nasty histories, but I suppose anything can happen. We’ll have to work, start dialogues, and hope for the best.
Now, a word that I would personally like to reclaim is “evangelical.” In its purest form, the word means “follower of the gospel.” Good thing, right? But, at least in the States, it has become a dirty word, associated with the lunatic fringes of Christianity… too many movie villains, the Westboro Baptists, that annoying guy on TV… you get the drift. Something’s got to change.
And that’s about 400 words on the subject of words! If you’re interested look up Wordsmith. They’re a pretty cool service (much better than junkmail).