Use the bad word?
I’m trying to write a blog post about a problem I’ve seen that makes the people with this problem seem….well, like assholes.
I can list a bunch of equally “bad” words here, but since I know some of my clients read this, I thought I’d keep it as close to PG rated as I could.
And that’s the problem. I want a word that isn’t one of those “bad” words. I want a word that’s perfectly acceptable in polite company.
Restrained by Niceties
The closest almost polite word I can come up with is jerk, and even that has connotations that are questionable. Besides, it’s not strong enough. These people are beyond jerks. They’re…well, what?
It’s unfortunate that certain words, on their own, should be considered so objectionable that we simply don’t utter them in polite company. George Carlin riffed on this in his famous “The Seven Words” routine. (If you have never seen this routine or haven’t seen it in a while, watch this video. It’s more than just a list of bad words. Carlin was a genius when it came to language.) The reluctance to use “bad” words just makes it difficult for people to express themselves accurately. The word I want is asshole, but I don’t think it’s right to use it because it might offend someone. So I scratch around for the right word and only come up with more of the same.
The Meaning I Want to Convey
The Thesaurus in my Mac, which I don’t use very often, was no help. It didn’t even include asshole (although the Dictionary did, as shown here).
When I looked up jerk, the synonyms were just as mild as jerk is. Ass was only included because it referred to an animal as well, but it also included the secondary meaning with these wimpy synonyms:
idiot, dolt, simpleton, imbecile; dimwit, halfwit, dummy, dum-dum, loon, jackass, cretin, jerk, fathead, blockhead, jughead, boob, bozo, buffoon, numbskull, numbnuts, lummox, dunce, moron, meatball, doofus, ninny, nincompoop, dipstick, lamebrain, chump, peabrain, thickhead, dumb-ass, wooden-head, pinhead, airhead, birdbrain; nitwit, twit, turkey, goofball, putz; dated tomfool, muttonhead
The word I want doesn’t mean stupid because of some kind of mental deficiency, as these words suggest. It means stupid and offensive because of a mean streak and/or complete lack of regard for other people. That’s what an asshole is, isn’t it?
How about Dick?
Phil Plait used the word dick recently in a speech he gave to a mixed crowd at a skeptics event in Las Vegas this summer. (Highly recommended folks; it’ll help you understand how to be more convincing when trying to make a point.) It might be the least offensive of the words I’ve been able to come up with. But like sucks, I have difficulty using it — partially because I’ve had friends named Dick. (Poor guys.)
What do you, dear reader, think? Is dick okay? Not quite as strong as I want, but the meaning is pretty much there.
Any suggestions? I can’t write the blog post until I have the right word and I do want to get it written. What do you think?