When Bad Words Do Good Things
May 8, 2003 3:05 PM Subscribe
Shut Up! Due to a linguistic phenomenon called amelioration, we're losing a lot of those nice, bad words that are so useful for expressing anger. Nice once meant stupid and bad's good today. "Shut up!" increasingly means an affectionate "Get outta here!"; No is becoming Yes and even "Fuck off!", with the right intonation can mean something like "I don't believe it! How very interesting, Carruthers!" Where will it end? And it's not as if any good words are making the opposite journey, except perhaps "You can kiss my ass", which is easily imagined as a term of endearment back in old Babylon. What really bad words and expressions will survive the nicification onslaught? And what unnecessary good words could be put to better use as insults?
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