Sunday, June 9

8 Dangerous Words

The English language is always changing. Some old words die, some new words take their place. Some words completely change meaning. And some expressions that were originally wrong or unacceptable become standard.

All of these show that the language is alive. It isn’t static or dead. Instead, it evolves together with the people and community that use it.

But some people, especially the non-native speakers of English, might be experiencing a kind of “language shock.”

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By “language shock,” I mean that some people may not be fast enough to be updated with the latest usage of the language. And the information that somebody can find in a book may already be too old compared to how the language is used in real situations.

A good example is slang. Slang is a whole different world in itself. So if you are not familiar with that world, you won’t understand anything. You would be like a total stranger or a foreigner to the world of slang.

If you’d like to know more about colloquial English or slang, please read:

Curses and Insults

In fact, some lower-level learners might not even know when a curse or insult is being spoken around them.

There are some words in English that, at first, appear completely innocent. But as time passes by, the words take on a completely different and sensitive meaning.

Native speakers may be aware of the exact usage. But the risk for non-native speakers not to understand the actual meaning of the words is quite high.

Here are 8 examples of “dangerous” words in the English language…

#1. Pussy

Original meaning: a cat, especially a kitten

Ex. I want a pussy cat.

Note: This word is used mainly by children or when an adult is speaking to children

Slang meaning:

(1) Coward (similar to “chicken”)

Ex. Stop being a pussy and do it!

Note: This word is impolite

(2) A woman’s sex organ

Ex. She likes to shave her pussy.

Note: This word is a taboo. Please do not use this word.

Usage: Compared to another taboo word, cunt, pussy is more generally accepted. However, many people still consider this word outside the limits of normal conversation. 

#2. Bitch

Original meaning: a female dog

Ex. The bitch won first place at the dog show.

Slang meaning:

(1) To complain too much

Ex. Stop bitching about work!

Note: This word is being used as a Verb.

(2) a slave

Ex. He’s her bitch.

Note: This word is also used for the “weak” person in a romantic relationship, especially a guy

(3) something difficult or unpleasant

Ex. Life’s a bitch.

(4) a female bully. A woman who is rude, cruel, and unpleasant. 

Ex. She’s such a bitch!

Note: This word  is rude. But it’s sometimes used humorously between close friends

(5) a woman who acts like she has sex with many partners

Ex. With all that make-up, she looks like a bitch.

Usage: Originally, “bitch” only meant a female dog. But around 1400, it started to be used as an insult for a woman. First, it meant an indecent or sensual woman, but then it became more general and included the meaning of an unpleasant woman. In the 1800s, “bitch” was considered “the most offensive appellation that can be given to an English woman.”

But language keeps evolving. Today, the word “bitch” can be used for a man, a complaint, and any difficult or unpleasant thing or situation. In these cases, the word is slang and less unpleasant.

However, for learners and non-native speakers of English, it’s better to exercise caution when using this word.

#3. Dick

Original meaning: a private detective

Ex. He works as a private dick.

Note: This expression is American English and old-fashioned

Slang meaning:

(1) a man’s penis

Ex. He tried to tell me some dirty joke about a dick, and then I slapped him.

Note: This word is impolite

(2) a man who is stupid and annoying

Ex. Stop acting like a dick!

Note: This word is impolite

Usage: At first, the slang sense of this word was considered a taboo. It has now become more acceptable in speech, but some older or more conservative people may feel upset if you use it.

#4. Bang

Original meaning: to hit, close, put down etc. something hard and make a loud noise

Ex. He banged his fists on the door.

Note: This word is being used as a Verb.

Slang meaning: to have sex with someone

Ex. I wanna bang her.

Note: This word is rude

History: In the 1540s, the meaning of this word was "to strike hard with a loud blow.” The slang meaning “to have sex with someone" was first used in 1937.

#5. Rubber

Original meaning:

(1) a substance that bends easily. It is used for making products such as tires and boots.

Ex. I want to take a picture of that giant rubber duckie.

(2) an eraser for pencil marks, or an eraser for a blackboard in a classroom

Ex. I have a pencil, a ruler and a rubber.

Note: This usage is British English. The American version is “eraser.”

Slang meaning:

(1) a condom

Ex. He always carries a rubber “just in case.”

Note: This usage is American English and is considered informal

Usage: In 1536, the meaning of “rubber” was a "thing that rubs.” The meaning "elastic substance from tropical plants" was first used in 1788. Then it was introduced by Charles Marie de la Condamine to Europe in 1744, where it was first used as an eraser.

The American English slang meaning of "condom" started in the 1930s.

#6. Ass

Original meaning: a kind of animal like a small horse, but with long ears  

Ex. He went to the village on an ass.

Slang meaning:

(1) the part of your body that you sit on

Ex. I’ll kick you in the ass if you don’t stop.

Note: This word is impolite. The British version is “arse.”

(2) a stupid and annoying person

Ex. That man’s a pompous ass.

Note: You can combine the word “+ass” with another word. If you do this, the meaning is "stupid" or "buttocks." It is used to make your speech stronger (emphasis) or as an insult

Ex. big-ass, stupid-ass

(3) sexual activity, or a woman considered sexually

Ex. All he could think about was getting some ass.

Note: This usage is chiefly American and Canadian and is considered impolite. Especially, the phrase “piece of ass” is a rude expression for a woman. It is used for a person whom you are only interested in because she is sexually attractive.

Usage: This word is at least a thousand years old. It has been a taboo until around mid-1900s. Today, people seem less likely to be offended when they hear this word, except in very formal situations.

#7. Screw

Original Meaning: a thin, pointed piece of metal that looks like a nail. But you push and turn it with a screwdriver instead of hitting it with a hammer. It is used for fastening things.

Ex. Each painting is fixed to the wall with a screw.

Slang meaning: an act of having sex

Ex. My roommate said he needed a good screw.

Note: This usage is impolite. Especially, the phrase “a good screw” is a very rude word for someone who is good at having sex.

History: The sexual meaning of this word was first used in the 1700s. But it did not become popular until the 1900s.

#8. Head

Original Meaning:

(1) the top part of your body

Ex. She wore a basket of fruits on her head.

(2) your mind and thoughts

Ex. Why don’t you use your head for a change?

(3) the leader or most important person in a group

She is the head of the Accounting Department.

Slang meaning:

(1) a headache

Ex. Very loud music gives me a head.

(2) a hangover

Ex. What do you do when you have a head?

Note: This usage always comes with the Article “a.”

(3) a toilet; a restroom

Ex. Jacob is in the head.

Note: This usage often comes with the Article “the

(4) give head = perform fellatio; a blowjob

Ex. I got head last night.

Note: This usage is rude

History: The meanings "top of the body” and "chief person, leader, ruler" were first used around 1420. The meaning of "toilet" is from 1748, because of the location of crew toilet in the bow of a ship. The meaning of “to perform fellatio" is from the 1950s.

Hope You Learned Something!

Keep on learning !

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