Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Road Trip Wednesday: I Hate The Word

Today, Road Trip Wednesday over at YA Highway asks a great question:

What words do you absolutely hate? Which ones do you adore?

I've been thinking about this all day.  See, there is a word that, without a doubt, takes first place in the "words I hate" competition.  And in fact, I hate it so much that I won't print it here.  But to give you an idea, it's the OTHER F-word, one used as an anti-gay slur.  It once meant a bundle of sticks, or if you're British, the short form can (could?  I'm an American, what do I know) mean a cigarette.  If you want to see the word, as well as a history of its evolution provided by GLSEN, you can click here and scroll about halfway down (but of course they use the actual word, so...just know that.) 

But here in the States, and now in 2012, it really only means that at best, the person speaking is completely ignorant of the import of the word.  And at worst, it's absolute hate speech.  You know the word I'm talking about.

As a teacher, I hear kids toss around words that they shouldn't all the time.  "That's so gay" and "that's retarded" and worse.  And I always try to put the kibosh on that.  But when I hear That Word--lord help that child.  Because that business gets Shut. Down.  See, unlike the words I mentioned above, which have uses that are appropriate, if they're not being used casually as insults, That Word has no acceptable modern-day American use.  None.  So rather than entering into the English Teacher Usage Hour like I am prone to do with the other words, I simply inform the kiddo in question that what I just heard them say was hate speech and it's not ok, not ever.  

I've had kids ask me what the big deal was, and it's possible that my position sounds extreme.  But when I see a kid pounding on another kid, I don't first try to calmly educate them about non-violence--I end the fight.  Talking can come later.  As far as I'm concerned, The Other F-Word is just as violent and damaging as actual physical fighting (maybe more).  

And you know what?  I've been at my current school for two and a half years.  My first year, I heard that word at least every other day.  Now?  I'm actually not even sure the last time I heard it.  I'm not naive and I'm sure some of my students still use the word.  But I've at least gotten them to stop using it where I can hear them, and once they have to think before using it some of the time, I hope they will think before using it more and more of the time.  Granted, I think the reason they don't use it in front of me is that they're just sick of hearing me talk about it, but it's a start.  

Ok, end-of-soapbox.  But I had to say it.  

And words I love? 

  • Inexplicable
  • Actually (but only the way it sounds when Lola says it on Charlie and Lola, a totally adorable TV adaptation of an equally adorable picture book series by Lauren Child.)  So, "Act-ually".
  • Anthropophagi, a recent discovery in Othello, which I'm teaching.  I just love words that I can look at and put together the word parts.  Ironically, after the above screed, one of my favorite word roots is "phag", meaning to eat.  It crops up in the weirdest places!
I don't know--there are definitely more of them, and I go through phases.  But "inexplicable" will, somewhat inexplicably, always be my favorite.

Whew--it's practically Thursday.  I promise to keep it shorter next time!


  1. I loved this post, because I hate that other "F" word, too! As a teacher, I've found that the hardest thing is trying to undo the damage that may have been done at home. Some of those kids will go home to hear their parents using that word freely. It becomes our job to get the kids to understand why it so wrong. (Okay, I'm getting off my high horse now!) :)

    1. Yeah, the biggest difficulty I have is when kids come back at me with something their parents said. I can't say their parents are wrong--but I can tell them that while they're entitled to their own beliefs, they are not entitled to be hateful or offensive in public. It feels like a cop-out but it's the best I can do.

  2. Wow, this post is really well-timed. I was watching The Breakfast Club last night and was surprised at the number of times that horrible word was used. I know that times have changed since the 80s, but it bothered me that I can't love that movie because of that. It's one of those words that I just can't tolerate. I was totally the same as you in my classroom--explaining why words were offensive and so on. My students would come to school daily with things from South Park and Family Guy that they didn't understand but felt perfectly okay saying anyway. The work never ends, but it's well worth the effort, right? :-)

    1. So, it's possible that I've only seen The Breakfast Club in its censored version--I saw it first in religious ed, and then basically EVERY TIME it comes on TV. But either way, part of what I've come to love it for is the cheesy dubbing of its bad language. I'm interested in watching the other version, just to see what it's like.

  3. Ugh, I hate that word, too. Good for you for getting your students to avoid it, even if it is just in front of you. You never know, for at least some of them you may have broken the habit.
    I like your favorites, too. :) I have always loved the word lullaby. It's just so sweet. :)

    1. I actually didn't realize how much of a difference there was in frequency of use in my classroom till I sat down to write this post. It used to just feel like every. single. class. That was miserable.


Thanks for coming by! Please chime in!