Saturday, January 7, 2012

On the meaning of words

This is probably one of the posts that will get me into a lot of hot water one day, but what the hell...

I hate the word "whore". I won't pretend that I never use the word, but my usage is pretty limited. If I use the word, it's usually as a modifier to some other hobby or vice like "fantasy football whore" or "pop music whore".

The first thing I hate about the word is the gender-based double standard imposed upon it. Now, one can apply the term "whore" to men, but let's be honest. It doesn't cut a man they way the slur it is intended to cut a woman. Calling a woman a "whore" is intended by the name-caller to be one of the most insulting terms one can use.

Secondly, I hate when women call other women a "whore," because it underscores the dynamic by which woman always seem willing to undermine other women. Within gender groups (stereotype alert, stereotype alert), woman-on-woman hostility seems much more prevalent than man-on man hostility. Women, whether they are friends, enemies, or frenemies (a word clearly invented for female relationships), always seem willing to go the extra mile to attack other females. I've never really understood the intense female perversion to cut down other females (though I'm sure men have played no-small role in fostering this in-group animosity). Men do this within their own gender, but it is much less frequent.

I particularly hate it when a man calls a woman a "whore". Hopefully, I don't have to waste too many words explaining the horrifying misanthropy and misogyny associated with the male-usage of this term (not to mention the previously established double-standard). But I also hate it for more self-interested reasons. Strategically speaking, men should not be discouraging promiscuous behavior. We should be encouraging it! Why oh why have we decided as a gender to disparage in the females species the very behavior which we desire the most? I don't know about you, but as a single guy, I really like promiscuous women. A lot. They are my favorites. (This aside certainly won't, and shouldn't, shield me from any female criticism, but I'd like to point out that I've never not called a girl because she slept with me too "quickly". The converse, sadly, is probably not true). I have no idea why men seem intent on stigmatizing this behavior. And yet it happens all of the time. How many times do you see assholes talking about the "slut" or "whore" they slept with recently? Why do these assholes do this (and why do these assholes get laid in the first place)?  Jesus fellas, if you are going to be grade A assholes, can you at least act strategically?

But I'm not here to talk about whores. I'm here to talk about the definitions of words. Well okay, I'm writing to talk about the definition of the word "whore." Let me explain.

As per Webster's, the traditional definition of the word "whore" is:
a woman who engages in sexual acts for money
But in the modern sense, "whore" is not really used that way. In fact, the more common modern usage of the word "whore" is to describe a promiscuous woman. In fact, when the word "whore" is used, we specifically think of women having a lot of sex and not getting paid for it. I don't think its unfair to suggest that society seems to have more respect for the "prostitute" who receives money than it does for the "whore" who simply "gives it up for free." Given the evolution of its meaning, how should a responsible dictionary define "whore"? I mean this question sincerely. When the definition of a word evolves, does the dictionary owe its allegiance to the traditional definition, or to the more frequently used modern version? In the case of the word "whore", the two definitions might even seem antithetical. How do we reconcile this divergence? To which definition does the dictionary owe its allegiance? Which definition should be listed first when some curious fifth grader looks up the definition online?

In any case, when it comes to the correct definition of the word "whore", I'll defer to the edition, which has the added benefit of explaining some of the personal animus behind the male usage of the word.

whore16363 up2905 down
A woman that sleeps with everyone but YOU!!!!!

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