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Corrupt and Worthless Language
by Stephen Williamson
5/27/2015 / Christian Living
As the English language is used in our world every day, we see all sorts of uses of words and phrases. However, as our words change, so do views of their properness. In the past, we have had a ruling class who told the common man which words were appropriate to use and which were not. However, rulers no longer take this upon themselves, and our culture is growing less and less religious. We are reaching a tipping point in our society. We need a concrete standard by which anyone may judge the appropriateness of words, otherwise our perhaps over-accepting culture will lead the still-devout into wickedness. Thus begins this work.
There are many theories on language from which we can draw. However, most view the morality of words as a more or less arbitrary standard suitable only for making a pious reputation or discerning how someone with sensitive ears might be offended. If this were true, we would must conclude that those sensitive ears may have no reason to be offended, and that that pious reputation may be without merit, for the standard is arbitrary.
However, what if the standard was not arbitrary? Sadly, the only way that the standard might not be arbitrary is if there is something wrong with how the word was used, rather than the word itself. This is a legitimate approach, but precludes the application or development of a list of words. Therefore, out of all of the various ways of making sense of such improper words, we will concern ourselves with those giving reasons why the word is wicked, what for now we will call the "bad word".
Most, if not all, valid ways of making sense of bad words seem to have developed names to call the language used. For example, if we think senseless hate or condemnation makes language bad, we call it "cursing". However, this has some strange implications when we run it in the other direction. If we begin with the word "cursing", for example, then it follows that any hateful opinion produces bad language, including the word "hate" itself. Likewise, we could begin with "foul language" and reason that language is bad when something is inappropriate or offensive, but when we base our reasoning on that, the more polite ways of saying it must be just as wrong, such as the word "poop". The author's favorite is "idle". When we call them "idle words" we reason that they must have lost their power. It is strange to most that one would approach the issue of language by postulating that a word without its meaning is wicked, but this theory is still equally valid, even important due to its closeness to using the Lord's name in vain. It also runs into the same trouble as the others; if we base our reasoning on it, then words such as "hello", "good morning", or even the old "amen" could all be bad words.
Does everything run into this kind of trouble? Let us look to the Bible. Ephesians 4:29 Is best known for condemning bad language, and the word used there in Greek is "sapros", which can be translated as corrupt or worthless. When we call language "corrupt", something revolutionary happens. Suddenly, it is not wrong because of what it does, but because something has happened to it. And when we call it "worthless", something equally revolutionary happens. Suddenly, it is not wrong not because it has wicked uses, but because it has no good use. Having no good use, and being affected by its use, explains all of the above rationales under an entirely different paradigm. It is bad because it cannot be good.
When we trace the usage of bad words, we generally find that they are somehow corrupted, and in various ways. They can even be corrupted by being used in an empty way. A word without its meaning looks like those times when we are saying nothing, but everyone understands why we said it. This is actually a popular way for bad language to form in a culture, with one current example being "holy crap". This also means trouble for the Lord's name, for when we have not done something good with its meaning, it is corrupt. If we allow it, the Lord's name could literally become a bad word. We are already beginning to see this attribution on some especially careful internet sites, who do not allow discussion of God in fear that it will appear in the phrase "oh my God".
What all of this means is that we have confusion in our culture, but not as much as we could have. We have some mistakes and we have some dangers, but we are not so depraved that we cannot learn. We just need to hear the truth. The truth is that some words are corrupt and worthless. The best way to address this is to call it corrupt; most of us know that it is impolite, but very few of us know that what we are saying is making our words worthless to heaven or harmful to our frame of mind. We need rebuke and encouragement from our religious leaders to keep us informed on what we are saying. If one wonders what might change if we accepted these definitions, an example is the word "crap", because currently it is used to curse or with otherwise obscure definition, and has no other good use. Someday the Lord's name could also become a corrupt word unless we stop it from happening. To this end, although the atheists with their scary foothold in our culture and laws would disagree, it is always socially acceptable to publicly use the Lord's name for religious purposes, and this is a viable way to combat its abuse by sacrilege. We can stop the sacrilegious by crowding them out with religion. Our words have meaning wherever we use them the most.
By an ordinary writer who wants people to know the truth.
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