Darrell Huckaby: We've lost a lot of color from the words we use

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

"They're only words, and words are all I have, to make my dreams come true."

That's from the Bee Gees. Watch "Saturday Night Fever" if you aren't familiar.

Words. We all have the same ones at our disposal but many of us, including a rising percentage of young people, I hate to report, seem determined to use the same ones over and over and over, and some of the worst and ugliest words in the language.

If you don't spend much time on the street -- or in the hood -- or wherever large numbers of our youth congregate, you might not be aware, but some of the foulest words come out of the mouths of some of the most innocent appearing youngsters -- male and female, black and white. It's quite disturbing.

I will not allude to what those words are because I don't want to conjure up such images in your mind, but they hear them at home and on television and at the movies and in the halls of their schools and in the streets.

Anything goes in the English language it seems, and that's a shame because there are so many other colorful and descriptive words that could be used -- but that would require thought and common sense and a degree of creativity that folks today seem to lack.

I remember when George Carlin did a comic bit about the seven words you can't say on television. Just before he passed away, Carlin said, "Now there's only one. Two if you're a white guy."

He wasn't far from wrong.

Another malady concerning our everyday wordage is that many words have been hijacked and it is not OK to use those sets of syllables in any way, shape or form lest someone be offended. Take the word "queer," for instance -- in the magnificent Robert Frost poem, "Stopping in the Woods on a Snowy Evening."

"My little horse must think it's queer, to stop without a farmhouse near, the coldest evening of the year."

We couldn't read that poem without snickering even when I was in school. Now it is one of those words that cannot be used at all, at least not by a straight guy. And we can't sing about donning now our gay apparel either. And heaven forbid someone embrace being an old Georgia cracker. I wore an old Atlanta Crackers T-shirt out in public the other day and you would have thought I had swastikas on my shirt from the looks I got from some folks.

There are also a lot of old-timey terms you seldom hear anymore. "Old-timey" is one of them. You hear folks talk about "back in the day" but not "old-timey." I wonder why that is? People would rather say OMG these days than "I swan," and my father-in-law is the only person I've heard in this millennium use the term "terrectly." It used to be everyday language.

He also says "roas-in-ears" when he gets ready to pull fresh corn. I think it derives from the term "roasting ears," but his way is more colorful.

People used to go to the "tooth dentist." Raise your hand if you've ever heard someone say, "I need to go to the tooth dentist to see about this bad tooth." Raise the other hand if you've used the phrase yourself. OK. You can put them down now. Nobody says tooth dentist anymore and I hate that. It's really a quaint little expression and very descriptive, even if it is a little redundant.

And nowadays when people decide to cuss somebody out they use no imagination whatsoever. They just let loose a long string of profanities that would make a sailor blush and a country preacher take to his sick bed. "Back in the day," they could cuss you out without using a single curse word. Now that takes talent!

You know who could cuss a man out better than anybody? Festus, the old guy who hung out with Matt Dillon, Doc Adams and Miss Kitty, in Dodge City, back in the day. Festus, by his own admission, couldn't read or write, but he could cuss a blue streak -- with words that today's filth merchants wouldn't even recognize as cursing.

I heard him call a guy a "low-down, no-count, lily-livered batch of side-winding skunk swine" one day without blinking an eye. And then he spit tobacco juice at his feet.

Of course Festus often needed to visit the tooth dentist after such a tirade because a lot of the scoundrels in Dodge City didn't like being called what they were.

Oh, well. At least we are still using words. The next generation will be limited to texting OMG and LOL and w/e. That last one means "whatever," which is the modern generation's way of saying, "Sometimes you just have to say, "What the Huck!"

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at dhuck008@gmail.com. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.