Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Pardon My Anglo-Saxon

"Anglo-Saxon," which we also know as Old English, was spoken in England from 5th century A.D. to before invasions in the 11th century. Many of the monosyllabic, harsh sounding words that we use in English are in fact Anglo-Saxon in origin. Case in point: fuck and shit. In Anglo-Saxon, fuck was just their word for sex, nothing vulgar about it, and shit was just a fact of life. The words only became vulgar when, as it happens, the French-speaking Normans invaded and the language of the invaded became a lesser language. It is a sort of psychological destruction, to make the basic words in one's language into curse words, to make them words that would not be spoken in polite company. So when you say, "Pardon my French," and then unleash a string of motherfuckers, etc., what you mean is, "Pardon my Anglo-Saxon."

And when I found all of that out, it got me thinking about words in general. Like use of the words "hot" and "cool" to describe excellent things. And how really anything could be a curse or expression of pleasure if you want it to be. You just need a way to spread it. My Latin teacher, for instance, told a story about how she casually introduced the word "casserole" into the slang at her college. At a party, she mentioned something was "casserole," using it as we would now use "sweet" or "cool." And within a week she heard people she'd never met before using it on campus. Brilliant.

Unfortunately, my argument that I was merely speaking Anglo-Saxon was not convincing to my mother. So until you can work fuck as a non-curse as my teacher worked casserole as cool, don't try this stuff at home.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are my hero.
Emma

9:27 PM  
Blogger Gaby said...

Hmm. If you say "cool" in France, though, you might get slapped. ("Cul" being the word for ass.)

7:33 PM  
Blogger Meredith said...

I'm sure I'm pretty much always cursing in someone's language, so I'm just gonna roll with it.

9:25 PM  

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