Words : The abuses and the actual abuses

Sometime back when I was still a student, after a really shitty exam my mother asked me “how did it go?” Casually I replied “Mumbai University raped us.” My mom flinched and told me not to use the word so casually, to which I replied “not in the literal sense, I meant it in an abstract way.” I didn’t quite understand her thought behind it then, but as usual it took an outsider’s perspective for me to learn.

After a few months, my keenness into the US politics had increased leaps and bounds (thanks to other great bloggers) and I am pretty hooked to speeches made by supporters of both sides. Republican supporter Rush Limbaugh III on radio was using the word ‘rape’ pretty casually,

“… that you have an intelligent informed electorate who simply doesn’t like being raped and being raped is what is happening people in this country by their government”.

And for the past quite a while I have been following Stephen Fry’s shows and interviews. In one of which he explains the simple way we make language work.

“Torture (noun) – the act of inflicting excruciating pain, as punishment or revenge, as a means of getting a confession or information, or for sheer cruelty.”

We use this word to describe our lectures, long queues and other things which bore us and take a long time. While it means some sort of 3rd degree pain inflicted. The word which is highly censored and one word which everyone takes an offense to, no I don’t mean racist, I meant the word is ‘FUCK’. Let us have a look at all its usages

         Itdoesn’t require much thinking to understand the kind of words we hate and the kind we use.

The word fuck, which is so censored, frowned upon and hence ostracized is simply harmless. The meaning of its usage in all its forms, literal, figurative, abstract, streetwise are simply not insulting.       If I say “ the lecture was fucking boring” it will be laughed along with by guys and the girls will smile, but not repeat the words. But if I said “ the lecture was a torture” more often than not, members of both the sexes join me in it. Not only will they nod their heads in agreement, but they will repeat the same statement with the exact same wordings. The word fuck when screamed out loud relieves you. Using it to express something bad is opposite of what it literally means, but still it is not as bad as misusing the words ‘rape’ or ‘torture’. What we consider as bad (junk) food and bad words generally makes us feel good about ourselves and is a nice stress buster,

What the fuck is wrong with us?

Torture was once used in its literal meaning, i.e. its usage meant what it stood for. Over the years, callous usage of the word has led to such dilution of meaning, that now it is equivalent of boring.  The use of the word rape must not be callous. Imagine about 20 years later, when our future generation is up and running, the word will be used for something on the same lines as boring. It seems like an exaggeration, I would have loved if it was one, but it isn’t. It is human to dilute the meaning of words by over usage and hence I plead one and all to ensure, that the words you choose are the words you mean.

This post/article wasn’t torturous, it was boring, educative. 

Would love to know your views


  1. // Reply

    People are very selective about which words are powerful to them. Words themselves have no inherent power; any power they’re perceived to carry is bestowed on them by individuals and society. Your post emphasizes how the meanings of words naturally evolve over time, as well as the contradictory, and often hypocritical, ways in which they’re employed and interpreted.

    1. // Reply

      words are like bullets, depends on how they are used, where they are used and on whom it is used.

  2. // Reply

    The word “rape” doesn’t rape, and the word “torture” doesn’t torture. It’s actions, not words, that count. So it doesn’t matter how you use those words. as long as you don’t commit those acts.

    1. // Reply

      Well, the words don’t matter but what they mean to the society dictates how much attention you can get from the society for that word or the thing it describes. Using the word ‘fuck’ may dilute it’s meaning but it doesn’t matter, as sud said. But when you start diluting the meaning of the word rape, then we have a problem. The word rape has to have the piercing meaning it has so that when there is a victim he/she won’t have to shout to be heard, but will only have to say the word to get a response.

      Now I will give a very idiotic answer to try to convey to you the importance of the concept sud discussed. On the International Space Station, there are no ‘casual’ red lights. The microwave has none and neither does anything trivial. The only red lights are for emergencies that could lead to death of the astronauts. They set it up so that whenever the astronauts see a red light they would have to take it seriously at that very moment and try to take the appropriate action rather than wait a seconds trying to remember what the glowing red light is trying to say.

      In life there are somethings that we as a society must not do, and that is to drown the red light one us may try to light to signal that something may be grievously wrong in a sea of insincere red party lights.

  3. // Reply

    Its truly amazing how words can be used, and how we can make them mean so much. So many truly horrendous words are used so abstractly now, and so completely different than their original intentions.

    The word Breast for example. I say it, and BOOM, your thoughts turn to tits. BUT, it was constantly used first by people meaning their chest cavity. “My heart beats within my breast.” It was used for both men and women. That’s why they are called Chicken Breasts.

    The word Gay is a great example. It was a term meaning joyous, or happy. “Don we now our gay apparel.” That line of that song is about getting dressed up for Christmas. But sooner or later the song is going to be banned from schools because it uses the word Gay.

    1. // Reply

      true Dan,
      In fact it is kind of annoying sometimes that the things no longer have an innocent meaning

      1. // Reply

        They never did. This has happened throughout human history. We aren’t the naughty generation, we’re pretty normal, in fact that may in of itself may be anomalous.

        1. // Reply

          maybe it is because over the time more and more words are loosing their ‘innocene’

          1. //

            Lots of words are created, and lots of others are lost. This cyclic generation and regeneration are a part of our society. Take a guess why they didn’t want to call the fanny pouch that but now it’s all OK to say it.

  4. // Reply

    Language is a fluid thing. Hurtful words change as society changes, reflecting what we value, what we don’t and the general state of our hearts and mind. The specifics may change but there will always be ways to verbally provoke or make others “flinch.”

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