Words Mean Things


Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt


I’m always curious about the etymology of a word, so of course I looked it up in the online Etymology Dictionary.  Interesting history, really:

filthy (adj.)Look up filthy at Dictionary.comlate 12c., fulthe, “corrupt, sinful,” from filth + -y (2). Meaning “physically unclean, dirty, noisome” is from late 14c. Meaning “morally dirty, obscene” is from 1530s.

In early use often hardly more emphatic than the mod. dirty; it is now a violent expression of disgust, seldom employed in polite colloquial speech. [OED]

The word noisome, by the way, has nothing to do with noise.  It indicates a state of dirtiness that is just not acceptable.

Anyway, I think  it’s interesting that in its first appearance in the English language, filthiness was a character (or lack thereof) quality rather than a physical uncleanness. Later, it became a physical uncleanness, and now it is often applied to that which is considered morally dirty or obscene.  Words change with usage. The English language is quite elastic, and there are words that everyone used to agree were filthy, and no decent person would use them.
We’ve certainly fallen a long way from that standard. Filthy language has become so common that it has no real meaning.  The F-Bomb has become just another overused adjective, like nice. The difference, of course is that the F-Bomb is more often used to express contempt and anger.
Words do mean things. Words have power, and angry words have a very strong power to demoralize, degrade, and cause fear. Whoever first said that silly “sticks and stones” thing was apparently never subjected to really horrible words, because words can and do hurt.  If that were not so, then we wouldn’t use them against each other for the specific purpose of causing harm.
And that’s my little morality lecture for the day.  Here’s a challenge:  If you are a person who has fallen into the habit of casual use of filthy words, just for today, stop it. Use better words. Increase you vocabulary.  Try it, you’ll like it. And so will all the people who have to hear your unpleasant language.



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