[The Bad Words #3]
Why are some words “bad”? English has a large and varied collection of “bad words”; what do they have in common? The answer is surprisingly spiritual.
Words are powerful. They enable us to take thoughts from our own minds and put them into someone else’s mind. This amazing power of words to hold and carry our thoughts makes all human connection possible.
The power of words also makes spiritual connection possible. History shows that people of different times and different cultures believed that some words were more powerful than others. The most powerful words were those that bless or curse. A blessing is a prayer or a wish for good things to happen to someone else. A curse is the opposite – a prayer or wish for something terrible to happen to someone else.
The curse words that I hear all around me in American culture today are not literally meant as prayer. When someone says, “Damn you!” he is not praying that God will send your soul to hell, although that is literally what those words mean. But he is using the power of words to carry a message of anger, hatred or disrespect.
We modern people may not believe in magic, but we still believe in the power of words. When words are used to curse people, or to twist a beautiful, sacred thing into something ugly or profane, they become “bad words”.
I have more to say about “bad words” in later posts, so keep reading English with Rae! If you missed the earlier posts in this series, be sure to read about Dropping the F-Bomb and The N-Word. You can subscribe to English with Rae by using the colorful buttons in the top right corner of the main page.
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Every language has “bad words” of some kind, but not every language has curse words. Does your mother tongue [first language] have cursing?