Often times you will hear complaints about younger people’s languages and most of the time it will boil down to the older generation being upset with the younger generations’ language. I am talking about what is more commonly known as the four-letter variety. Interestingly I was having a conversation yesterday about this very subject. I was challenged to prove language is fluid and being I needed to get my mind off some things, I took it up. Moreover, I learned a lot about the vulgar history of language.
Now you might ask what this has to do with technology and my blog, and I can say it does have lot to do with technology and how it is shaping the future of our language. As the Internet is bringing us more and more together, cultures are starting to merge and shape in ways not seen before. And one of the things in language that has always been true, those younger creating their own forms of words and slangs has been accelerated with access to a bigger community. Language is changing, and most likely going through some of the most rapid changes we have ever seen. In addition, those who cannot or choose not to keep up are being left behind. Even the rules to language are being shaped in new and different ways. Language is now more fluid then it every has been.
Hold on one second…
Now I feel much better…
Being who I am I rather not go into naming the actual language in this article, but nonetheless I learned that most of our vulgar language came from commonplace terms that morphed and changed meanings over time. The first thing to understand that the term vulgar used to mean a blasphemy against God, in terms of when we came to identify vulgarity with sex and body parts came from Victorianism. But it all still comes down to shock, and as one period of time culture and people find one thing shocking (Blasphemy) another finds something else shocking (behind closed door acts.) However, this also proves that language changes over time and once the culture no longer deems something vulgar it moves away from being vulgar.
And in bigger terms if the younger generations deem something not to have a certain connotation and meaning, as the older generation dies off, the meaning that is no longer enforced is placated to history. Then the older meanings of words become only known to the scholars of future generations who choose to study them. Even more ironic is that as certain language has slipped into commonplace older generations will claim that the younger generations are too loose in their language. When the truth is every generation plays with language in their youth.
So are we “cool” with that?
Now part of my challenge was to find a word that is commonplace today and no longer vulgar. I found such a word.
mid-14c., “to take possession of,” also “to take up space or time, employ (someone),” from O.Fr. occuper, from L. occupare “take over, seize, possess, occupy,” from ob “over” + intensive form of capere “to grasp, seize” (see capable). During 16c.-17c. a euphemism for “have sexual intercourse with,” which caused it to fall from polite usage.