Thursday, November 15, 2007

Words People Understand

One of the ongoing debates I have with myself is about words. Because words have specific meanings, but those meanings do evolve. My linguistics professor talked about the word intercourse which now is so often linked with the word sexual that the sexual part is almost implied.
But, I also think people understand context and how that affects things. And while there are plenty of jokes to be made in the English language where we have homophones and homonyms and all sorts of things that can be so confusing, we seem to get by.
ChaliceChick had a discussion about words a while back, and one commenter gave the example that the word dike in the Netherlands has a perfectly legitimate and non-pejorative meaning that is unrelated to the possibly offensive or possibly reclaimed slang word for lesbians in the US.
So, while I recognize that the word ho right now is used pejoratively to describe women as whores I also have no trouble understanding that a person in a red and white suit using the word repeatedly is expressing what some might call holiday cheer. So, I am saddened to hear that a recruitment firm warned Santas in Australia that use of the ho, ho, ho might be found offensive and they might want to refrain. Seriously.