Word Games

Caps has some words about some words.
July 16, 2008
Throughout my life, I've been fascinated by words. My reading level was a 4-year-college level, and this was back when I was in high school. I've read many words throughout my years, but as time moves on, some words tend to change meaning while other words tend to fall out of favor and sometimes the words are just plain odd.

Here are my thoughts on a few of those words:

I'll start off with the word "babe". When I was growing up, this term was used to describe women who a man found attractive. For example, I think that Melanie Griffith looked stunning in the 1984 movie "Body Double".

As adult film star Holly Body, Griffith exuded sexuality but also a sense of strength. She does things on her own (graphic) terms. These are 3 qualities that come to mind when I think of the word "babe".

Sometime in the mid-90s, though, the word "babe" slipped into the background and the word "hottie" took over. It seemed that "babe" vanished like a thief into the night, alongside its' male counterpart "hunk". Nowadays, when you watch TV or read magazines, it seems that "hottie" is the only word you read in regards to people's looks.

You know, I thought that with the popularity of 80s nostalgia in this decade that the word might return to favor. The 80s must not be THAT popular. To be fair, though, I think that the rise of the word "hottie" could be seen as a unisex thing. I think that some people decided that keeping track of words like "babe" and "hunk" was just too tiring.

I'll continue to use the word "babe", though. It's what I grew up, and while there are many things I want to move past, there's just as many I want to hold onto.

Next, I would like to talk about a phrase instead of a single word. The phrase? "(Fill-in-the-blank) rocks!".

Once again, this is an example of how things change, but the change is done in a different way. Once upon a time, when somebody said, for example, "Iron Maiden rocks!", he wasn't thought of as an object of mockery...He was thought of as a man who knew what he was talking about.

Eventually, though, the phrase "(fill-in-the-blank) rocks!" became a term of sarcasm. As grunge music rose and pop rock fell out of favor, the terminology of pop rock died alongside it. Eventually, it became that you liked grunge, you were celebrated, but if you like pop rock, you were vilified.

Nowadays, "(fill-in-the-blank) rocks!" is viewed in a sarcastic light. I'm laying this at the feet of Tenacious D.

Jack Black and Kyle Gass are basically the jack-asses on the musical schoolyard, the snide and smug little bullies who think you're a joke. One of the ways a bully can get under your skin is by mocking your actions and words. With their invocation of ancient mythology, misogynistic lyrics and frequent flips of "devil horns", among other things, the duo, basically grunge rockers at heart, are stick-shifting the genre of pop rock for shits and giggles.

Saying that "(fill-in-the-blank) rocks!" in this day and time automatically brands you as a fool, and being branded as a fool would cut me, but I would be used to it. After all, being cursed at and having your actions and abilities questioned sort of numbs you to the world.

Next, I would like to mention another term that's gone neutral in the past few decades.

When I go to work, I'll see groups of people and I'll say "Hey, guys". The thing is, many of the people I say that to are women.

When I was growing up, "guy" was a term of averages. It signified a man just doing what he can to get by. I'm thinking of Roddy Piper in "They Live", for example.

As Nada, he's an everyday person, looking for refuge and peace. Instead, he finds sunglasses that allow him to see that the world is a lot different (and worse) than he thought. Despite this, he soldiers on, gathering up a small army to confront the threat head-on.
An everyday man in hard circumstances...That, to me, is what a guy is.

As the years have worn on, though, women have taken charge more and more. I think that the gender neutrality of the word "guy" is a result of feminism. One of the most important parts of feminism is being viewed on equal ground with men on fronts from business to entertainment. That want of equality extends to the words we use, and for the word "guys" to refer to both men and women means that words don't necessarily mean anything.

The next word I would like to talk about is the word "win". Normally associated with victory, leetspeak has changed the meaning of the word somewhat.

F.T.W means "for the win", although for a while I thought it meant:

In recent years, though, the words "for the" have been removed from the phrase, leaving the word "win" to stand alone. Many irony-oriented people use the word to describe, in sarcastic terms, how stupid they think something is. For example, they might say about the video for Rick James' "Super Freak" that "this video is loaded with win!".

They notice how old the video is, they look at the fashions, they see the dancing and they think "Wow, this sucks", but to be witty, they use the word "win" to describe how they feel. The dictionary defines "irony" as "the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning". That seems like a pretty accurate description of the current Internet usage of "win".

To cap it off, I would like to talk about my amazement at the word "cool". I'm amazed because the word is still in use after all these years. Unlike other words, this is a term that I've heard used with sincerity.

Of course, it has several meanings. It can mean that you think that something is great.

For example, "That Ferrari looks so cool...I would love to be behind the wheel!"

It's an indication of approval. It has a look to it that speaks of excellence of all sorts.

It can be used as a description of attitude, like "Did you see the preview of the new James Bond movie? He has a cool attitude about him..."

In recent years, though, it's been used most often as a term of friendliness. For example, on "The Surreal Life: Fame Games", Ron Jeremy and Vanilla Ice were on bad terms during the final challenge after Ron accidentally betrayed Ice's confidence.

Ice was furious, tearing up the set and coming close to injuring Ron. He was pissed for a long time, but they made up. Vanilla Ice said that they're cool with each other again. It basically means they're on good terms. That's how I imagine most people use the word "cool" nowadays, but still, no matter what the definition, the word "cool" has lived on.

I think it's lived on because it's not of a specific time. Everybody from jazz singers to hippies to disco kids to new wavers to gangsta rappers have used the term in one way or another. The definition, like time itself, changes from generation to generation. It stays with you, with us, with everybody. It has no color, no creed, no nothing. It just is.


Well, those are my thoughts on several words I've heard a lot of. What are your thoughts on these words? Do you use them? Do you use different ones? Are you surprised at what's come and gone?

All feedback is welcome. Thanks for reading this article. Have a good day.
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