"Bitch, listen to me!"

These words to me during an Instant Message reference transaction today...only he didn't take time to use punctuation. Oh, how I do love my job.

One of my colleagues was helping me answer his (what-I-soon-discovered-was-not-a -legitimate) question, so I was able to chat with her about his use casual use of the word bitch. Her daughter and friends use the word bitch so casually they think it doesn't mean anything. Unshelved (one of my favorite comic strips) recently announced the winners of their second Pimp My Bookcart contest. You've heard examples in your surroundings, too.

I started to wonder. As each generation prescribes their own meanings to what previous generations considered tremendously insulting words, do the newer generations know what the words mean to those previous generations? (God, I feel O-L-D today). I'm not judging any generation right now, I'm simply wondering (and not able to find articles about this).

And, I'm not talking about people like Don Imus who are old enough to know what they're saying, but about the 20-somethings, maybe teens and possibly kids of today and whether they know the history of words they may be using quite casually.

Example: "Man, I am sooooo whipped!!" These words just came out of my mouth one day while warming up for orchestra in high school. The teacher looked stunned, then casually said "um, on who?" I had no idea why she was so stunned, I was simply announcing to the world that I had a severe crush. Well. Today I finally understand why she was so shocked by my choice of words. Oh.

Now, in general, I don't have a problem with new use of certain words, but I admit it. I cannot and will not say the N-word. And I get uncomfortable when I heard others say it. One of the best books I listened to this year was A Day of Tears, by Julius Lester, about the largest slave auction in history. It is told from the perspectives of many different slaves, the master of the plantation, his estranged wife and children, the auctioneer, the purchasers. It is a finely crafted work of historical fiction, and it is very heavy on the N-bomb. The word was used accurately and non-gratuitously within its historical context, and I have had and continue to have tremendous admiration and respect for Julius Lester. But I hated hearing it.

And I hated being addressed as 'bitch.'

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