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Subject:Re: What the f -at- #$? From:Heilan Yvette Grimes <HEP2 -at- AOL -dot- COM> Date:Tue, 26 Jul 1994 14:14:18 EDT
> it would be Mrs Smith, but I'm dam*ed if I'm changing my surname!
>This business of acceptable and unacceptable language is a real
>peeve of mine. I'm wondering if anyone else has ever stopped to ponder why
>some words (usually monosyllabic) are shunned while there synonyms (usually
>polysyllabic) are acceptable. I suspect that the origins of this are
>and elitist, but I've never actually made a study to confirm this.
Your are correct, the origins are classist and elitist. Most words that are
thought of as "dirty" words (shit, fuck, damn, hell) are anglo saxon (and a
few other languages including Old Norse) in origin. Their counterparts which
are acceptable (defecate, urinate, etc.) are derived from the romance
languages. So, the vulgar tongue (anglo-saxon) gave us words that the
commoners spoke (they didn't speak French), and the elitist looked on those
words as "dirty," when, in fact, they are just words.
This is also the reason in legal documents why lawyers will use two different
words to represent the same meaning (making for lots of ORs in English legal
documents). The words meant the same but the first word generally has a
romance language derivation, while the second word has a more common
derivation. You don't find this sort of things in legal documents of other
foreign countries since their language was set. English was in a state of
evolving from Old English, Anglo-Saxon, German, French, etc., so words that
meant the same but of different derivation would be used.