Otherwise known as: on the four-letter (swear) word.
These are the words that our society deems verbotten–we cover the ears of children when they are uttered in a movie and do not dare to say them around our grandmothers for fear of a stern look. There are at least seven that cannot be uttered on the air or the FCC has a shit fit.
What they are: shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits. With the exception of cocksucker and motherfucker they are all four-letter, one syllable words. To that list I’d like to add two more–bitch and ass(hole).
My theory why most of the basic cuss words are one-syllable words is simple: they are words that can be spit at someone. They don’t require forethought or any other kind of complex thinking. Just something one can say in anger or frustration–emotions that generally do not coexist alongside rational forethought. Insults are scatological and/or sexual in almost every language
As for the longer words, well, the only reason I can think of for their existence is that they are combinations of shorter words–cock and suck, mother and fuck and are therefore easier than non-combined words (can’t think of the linguistic term right now) to say. Anybody have an alternative suggestion?
Why do both genius and ingenious mean the same thing? Yes, I know they are spelled differently, but there is no difference verbally between the opposite of genius and ingenious. You think the people designing the language would differentiate a little more between the two.
This is a bit of a pet peeve of mine, mostly that it is so common in the vernacular.
Polyamory: many loves
Monogamy: one partner*
Why are these always used as opposites? They may be almost mutually exclusive (not going to go into when they aren’t because that’s just semantics) but they are not logically linguistic opposites. If one looks at roots (both Greek and Roman in the case of polyamory) the opposites are as follows:
Opposite of many loves, is one love–monoamory
Opposite of one partner is many partners*–polygamy
I propose the increased usage of the word monoamory–despite its plethora of vowels, it is the technically correct word to use opposite polyamory.
*: I simplified the terms incredibly. The ending -gamy usually refers to marriages, but is often used to also refer to non-married relationships as well.
This was not the original material I was going to write on for the first part, but I think I better write on it before I forget it.
Washington is a state. Washington D.C. is the capital of the United States. There should be no need to add the word “state” onto the end of the first Washington. The second Washington should be appended with D.C. or simply known as D.C. in the common vocabulary.
Despite the fact that this is an easier and shorter way of doing things, people insist on doing it the hard way. Beats me why. Washington D.C. may have been around for longer but guess what? Washington, as a state, is much larger (very close to 11 times the population and almost 1100 times the square mileage).
I’ve decided, since there are times I don’t really have anything significant to say about politics or the state of the world, that I’m going to do a feature about the oddities of language. Not just limited to English, but also a little Italian, Japanese, and a tiny bit of ASL (because these are the languages I have a working understanding of). These will range from pondering about the oddities of how we talk, and dialect differences to just weird little things about the way language functions in society. I already have a couple entries in mind, so the first few will come in quick succession, but I’ll try to keep this a fairly regular feature. I will take suggestions in comments, so if you have any ideas, feel free to put them in the comments section.