The effect of saying "'x'-word"

When someone wants to avoid a so-called bad word, they’ll use the first letter of that word, and add “-word.” (“F-word”; “N-word”; etc.)

That relieves the speaker of saying the actual word, but merely by alluding to the word, they’re just causing the listener to think the actual word.

So, we apparently have constructed a way to use the word without using the word, a sort of social agreement. But what’s the point? People know what we’re saying.

And if the “‘x’-word” construct is socially acceptable, how long before even that becomes off-limits? What if people started using it directed at others?

I’ve never encountered anyone using such a word in this way, only people mentioning the word. That is to say, it’s never “F-word you, mother F-worder”, but “Mommy! Timmy used the F-word!”.

It works with our dogs. If we don’t want them going berzerk, we talk about T-words, and W-words instead of treats and walks.

This is a concept called the euphemism treadmill.

Will an a-word on a euphamism treadmill take off?

Would it be acceptable? I wouldn’t think so, because that would be a matter of intent. However, there’s no ill intent when people are merely discussing the word, so there’s more to this.

Thank you for the link. Interesting stuff.

I think certain people have figured out that there is great social value in having a positive single to let others know you are not offending them.

In some situations a number of people might get offended by your actions when you did not mean any offense. In some of these situations, taking offense would require a severe deficiency in brain power. But no matter how dumb that person is, you still do not want him to get offended. For your own comfort, you would like a way to avoid this unnecessary conflict. So what you do is come up with a signal that will tell idiots and skeptics alike that you mean them no offense. Everyone is happy and all you have to do is say “f-word” instead of “fuck.”

This behavior is also present in other social situations. Like people greeting people who they don’t plan on talking to. It’s most often done in the form of a small head nod. People do this to acknowledge that their relationship is on good terms. If nothing were ever said, a few people would naturally draw the wrong conclusion. They might get offended by your silence even though you don’t really hate them. In order to avoid this unnecessary conflict, people have invented greetings. A positive signal that lets idiots and skeptics alike know that they are on good terms with the person greeting them.

In some of the more wealthy cultures, there is a tremendous amount of social rules devoted to avoiding conflict. The more wealthier you get the more asinine the rules become.