Simon Taylor: Sneaky Individuals

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Simon Taylor: Sneaky Individuals


I’m so Generation Y. I’m so Gen Y that how long my happiness lasts is directly linked to my iPhone battery.

I’m so Generation Y. I’m so Gen Y that how long my happiness lasts is directly linked to my iPhone battery.

Despite the disdain of some, I choose to celebrate the idiosyncrasies of my generation as a natural progression of cultural change. My favourite of which is our inappropriate use of slang words.

This realisation came about recently when my cousin, also Gen Y, ACCIDENTLY said the c-word at a family dinner. Yep, dropped a massive c-bomb right in front of parents, grandparents and all. As his face turned a brighter red than the cheap wine my mother spat out in shock, I tried to defend him. I explained that the c-word, for our generation, doesn’t have the original meaning. For us it means… individual. Like “who’s that individual?”, “what a sexy individual” or “I love that guy, he’s such a funny individual!”

When I was 15 I first read Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch, a book on feminist analysis (yes I was one of those odd teenage boys who somehow got into feminism instead of lesbian porn). I remember my utter surprise at seeing the c-word for the first time in print, in this case being referred to as the worst thing you could call someone. After hours of laughing and another gentle wank over the picture of boobs on the front cover, I wondered if Germaine could have foreseen that 30 years on, people would be using the word with positive or endearing connotations as well.

I suppose swear words are like black jellybeans. Many people don’t like them but if the flavour were to change, those people may still reject them based on perception not on content. So now that Generation Y has manufactured a new flavour for the c-word, I wonder how long it will take to completely shed its past semantic meaning.

It took the word ‘punk’ 300 years to stop meaning ‘prostitute’ and start meaning ‘worthless person’. Then only another 80 years after that to start meaning Mohawks, lip rings and telling your parents to get the fuck out of your room.

I have enough faith in the human psyche to believe that the brain can distinguish between the multiple meanings of words without forming unconscious judgements on others.

When my teenage sister says that her boyfriend is being gay, I have no doubt that she doesn’t mean he is currently packing for Mardi Gras. In the same way, when my mate tells me that he is gay I don’t assume he got drunk in some park and had an argument with my sister. Context is everything. Especially when that same mate announced that his internet connection is gay only a heartbeat after coming out.

People give words power and therefore if you are a people, which I suspect you are, you own language as much as the rest of us. Unless, of course, Facebook changes its terms and conditions again and it ends up owning our language too. Those sneaky individuals.