Changing Vocabulary

“If you wish to know the mind of a man, listen to his words.”  -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Lately, I’ve been working on ridding my vocabulary of words which have sexist, racist, or otherwise bad origins. This has led to many debate about the etymology of words and I’ve been spending a lot of time googling things like “history of the word skanky.”

I’ve never had a tolerance for people using “gay” in the pejorative sense or “nigger” at all. But I’ve never really spent much time thinking about the origins of words like “wuss” (which is a shortened version of “wussy,” reduplicated form of “pussy.”) A few years ago, I used the word “gypped” as in “I got gypped by this guy on Craigslist.” A friend who I was with got very angry and informed me that that term was a form of the word Gypsie and was as offensive as “jewed.” I had no idea the term had racist connotations and that made me realize how little I know about the history of words.

Skanky, by the way, is either adapted from the French word for snail and refers to a woman of low morals “with her boudoir on her back,” or refers to a specific type of Reggae dance which is very sexual.

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