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The International Writers Magazine: Language - From Our Archives

That Sucks -I'm Fine but you're Screwed
Gabriel Constans

The way we speak drives me crazy!  Well, it doesn’t really “drive me” anywhere, nor causes me to have a psychotic break, but it can be intensely frustrating.

Our use of language is so flippant and unconscious that we rarely recognize the stinking sewage it can create in our immediate surroundings and the culture in which we live.  Without understanding or realizing the toxicity of the words we are perpetuating we continue butchering the English language with random disregard for the consequences.  English is already limited in its capacity to adequately describe much of our experience, so why are we boxing it up into minimalist jargon and down-sizing its potential for understandable discourse?  To put it bluntly, when did sucking become bad?
Sucking, a most pleasurable experience, now connotes that something or someone is not good; that they or it, is not only bad, but really awful.  “That movie sucked” or “You suck” are lamely thrown around to encapsulate an entire event or individual and have nothing to do with the pleasurable sensations of sucking. 

Co-mingling with this inane colloquialism is the phrase “I’m screwed.” or “Screw you.”  To screw, in this context, refers to sexual intercourse, again a most pleasant and joyful experience that now insinuates being helpless, taken advantage of or without recourse, as in “I really screwed up.” or “They screwed me over.”
It goes without any prerequisites that exclaiming “bad” to mean “good” makes as much sense as saying “cool” equals “hot”, “fat” is “great”, or “sweet” implies “excellent.” 

Moving towards the basement of horrific vocabulary is “shut up”, which should be banned from use when used to convey “This can’t be true!” or “You’re kidding?”  People who use “shut up” in that context should just shut up! 
The proverbial “Boy!” or “Man!” when speaking of something astounding, exciting or unbelievable, such as: “Man that was close!  Man, you are amazing!  Oh boy, let’s go!” is another constant source of verbal annoyance.  Why don’t people say, “Oh, girl!” or “Woman, that was awesome!”?

Along these same illogical lines, when did both genders become “guys”?  It appears to be used completely out of context and without regard to those who are being addressed.  “Hi guys; what would you like for dinner?” the waitress asks a table of men, women and children. 
“What did you guys do today?” a father asks his daughter.
Have you ever heard someone say, “Take it like a woman!  Quit acting like a boy.” or “Be a woman!”?  When did being female become a bad thing?  What is so threatening about women that men (and women) will use such language in a derogatory manner when they want boys or men to behave differently or to put them down? 

And everyone knows the World Series is anything but.  A competition that excludes ninety-five percent of the global population and includes only American and a few Canadian teams is not “The World”. American football is not “football”; it is hand and foot ball.  Football is what Americans and English call soccer and consists of a REAL world series (World Cup) with countries from almost every nation on the planet.

There are some words that should just be banned, period.  “Fine” for instance, as in “I’m fine.”  The definition of fine is “finished; perfected; superior in quality; better than average.”  When we greet one another and are asked, “How are you?” do we really intend to say “I am finished”  “I am perfected” or “I am superior in quality; how are you?”  Some psychotherapist friends tell me that “FINE” should stand for “Freaked, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional”, but what do they know seeing that “psycho” is short for psychotic and “therapist” comes from therapeutes, which means attendant or servant; thus my friends are nothing but psychotic servants.
No word is used more inanely or often in English than the word “love”.  We use it for everything - I love this movie; I love that song; I love you; I love me; I love baseball; I love Fred; I love Julia; I love food; I love God; I love my dog.  It is used so casually and with such consistent disregard for its complexities that it can end up meaning nothing more than an over-cooked adjective that has loved itself to death.

You may beg to differ with these observations about our idiosyncratic attempts to communicate; though I am still waiting to see someone actually get on their knees and plead or beg to disagree with something I have said.  The old adage of “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me,” must have originated with people who didn’t have to listen to someone saying, “this sucks” a thousand times a day or been told “screw you” and never been able to actually do so with the person who said it.
Gabriel Constans April 2008
constans at

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