Of all the adjustments people ask me about in my relocation from US to the UK such driving on the left while sitting on the right side of the car or learning how to use different systems of measurement or money, the most interesting is the difference in what certain words mean here versus in America. Take faggot for example. Last night John had faggots from the special’s board at our local pub.
Being raised in country where faggot has a whole other meaning, I had to snap a couple of photos to use in discussion here later. This caused a bit of chatter at the table we were sharing with our friends, Jean, Robert, and Jeff. Robert had the faggots too and after seeing my interest in photographing both the menu board and John’s dinner we talked a bit about faggots and the meaning and use here in the UK.
After doing some research this morning, I found more than a few sites which talk at length about how the word faggot came to be used in America as a derisive word that is often thrown about to bully or dismiss someone of a different sexual orientation. While one might assume that Americans were wholly responsible the shift in perception, I discovered this morning that at certain points in time, Britons have themselves used it to describe more than meatballs and wood for a fire.
It seems that during its evolution down the ugly path it has been used to describe not only a homosexual male, but according to a post over at The Straight Dope, it has also been a way to label and dismiss women during certain periods in history, ” Nineteenth century Britons also heard “faggot” used in reference to an ill-tempered woman, i.e., a ball-buster, a battleaxe, a shrew. That meaning of the term continued into the early 20th century, and the usage was gradually applied to children as well as women.” How all of this evolved from what was originally used primarily to denote a bundle of sticks is discussed in detail here, and to a lesser degree here as well.
This post was originally intended as a post about food and word use and the differences in people and countries, but another thought kept nudging me, tickling the edges of my concentration saying, ” Hey, why are you skirting around the really ugly stuff ? “
Which led me to something other than the neat wrap up I had intended. I wish I could forget how word use and name calling are linked to bullying by people with a need to wield power and control over others.
Most of us have experienced some form of it growing up or even as adults, but I can’t imagine a life tainted by some of the horrendous acts that I have read about over the last few days. Some of the blogs I read have offered points of view not really touched by the news media and there are a few I want to leave you with.
A little food for thought.
Anniegirl1138 sometimes shocks my toenails off with what she has to say, but she almost always leaves me with something to think about as is the case with her post today. It is well worth reading and I would suggest you watch the video if you have time, but be prepared.
Jennifer Petkov is You over at Anniegirl1138
Penelope Trunk wrote a very interesting post the other day which while dealing with what looks like a different subject matter is really more of the same with regard to bullying and ugly places some people go to when trying to dismiss someone’s value and credibility.
Generation Y in Politics: Krystal Ball’s Candidacy can be found at Penelope Trunk’s blog.
Jayne Martin usually focuses on the funny, but gets very serious with her post below.
How Many More Kids Have To Die ? which can be found over at injaynesword.
I will finish with a gentle and important message from Karen Walrond.
love thursday: on bullying, modeling behavior and making it stop which can be found over at her blog home, Chookooloonks.
wow, thanks for the links. I feel really, really sad that this is who we are as humans. Given that I teach history and spend a lot of time reviewing world wars, atrocities, and genocide with students in an effort to SHOW them the horrors so that perhaps they will make better choices, it is sad to see that we aren’t really making any better choices. And any of of these personal hate-events (like Jennifer’s craziness) could escalate into a societal hate-event. Why pretend to be so distressed by what the Nazi’s did in Auschwitz when we do this on a small scale everyday?
I think it’s all about intent. I’m from England and moved to Canada when I was four. I remember my smoking parents referring to their cigarettes as ‘fags’ and thinking nothing of it…until I realized what that word meant in Canada. While it’s fine to inadvertently use a noxious word occasionally, once the local meaning is discovered it is obnoxious to continue. My parents quit smoking before they stopped using the word.
As for Jennifer, it is difficult to imagine that such senseless hatred reigns. Awareness is the key I suppose.
Thanks for the shout-out and the links. I visited them all and was impressed by their distinct and powerful voices.
I might have known it would take one to know one, my friend. What an interesting and educational piece of word usage. Words are perhaps the ultimate “weapon of mass destruction.” Bullied children grow up to be bullying world leaders.
It was fairly recently that I heard someone say that the history of faggot as a word for homosexuals came from when they used to burn people at the stake. It seemed a bit too direct, so I’m glad you referred to The Straight Dope. His explanation makes much more sense to me.
But, I guess if one feels the need to “make” a faggot, doing it at home beyond the glare of prying eyes, is the place.
In Turkey, we have Yumy Toilet paper!