All posts tagged: definitions

What Lurks Behind the Word ‘Wife’?

The meaning of wife? (Photo courtesy Jennifer Ha) My young son recently asked me why some words are “bad.” He’s at the age where saying an illicit word brings a certain measure of delight and thrill due to the reaction of others, namely me, his Mom. He lets a naughty word slip, I admonish him, and we do it all over again. My daughter has a workaround. “I may think those words, Mom, but I just don’t say them aloud.” So when he asked me: “What makes a word bad, Mom?” I had to think about it. We, the users of language, assign meaning to words. If a society agrees on a meaning, it sticks. But language is a living thing. It changes. The meanings of words that have been around for thousands of years often transform, over time, into different meanings. So while I’ve been busy correcting his language for polite company, I’ve also been thinking about my own “bad” words. I surprised myself with the revelation that there has always been something about …