Language is such a funny thing when you think about it. I heard a child calling someone “fat” the other day and it got me thinking–when did that word turn into an insult?
Once upon a time, “fat” used to be a normal word, like “bread,” or “octopus.” It shouldn’t be such a terrible insult, but the word is infused with such a strong intent to hurt someone that it’s one of the worst things you can call somebody. Why? Calling someone an octopus rarely evokes tears, but calling someone fat–it’s like opening Pandora’s Box. It’s the malice associated with the word that is meant to harm.
The same is true for “gay.” For the life of me I can’t figure out how that word went from meaning “happy” to being a flippant insult.
“You’re a happy octopus!”
Would that make you cry? But calling someone fat or gay might. And it’s not even like the words were created to be bad! They were just doing their thing when we slapped some awful connotations on them. I assume f@ck was never meant to be a pretty word, but gay meant happy and fat meant you had more fat than the average person.
Seriously, language is weird. The way we associate intentions and connotations to language is weird. The way we choose to use the certain words as insults is weird.