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Why Is Bitch A Bad Word?

January 9, 2017
If a guy says the word bitch at the wrong time, this can happen. (image via wikimedia)

If a guy says the word bitch at the wrong time, this can happen. (image via wikimedia)

When I was a kid and called my dog a bitch, my parents punished me.  I tried to argue to them that I was using the word bitch correctly.  A bitch was a female dog, I said, and that was exactly what our dog was.  I even pulled out a dictionary to make my point.

My dad then told me to look up the word belt, and I knew what he was suggesting, so I stopped arguing.  I was correct about the word bitch, but I wasn’t willing to pay the price for it.

For a long time afterward, I wondered why bitch was a bad word. First of all, bitch is a five-letter word.  Most bad words have four letters.  Sh**, d**m, f***, and even c***k and d**k, have four letters.

Plus, bitch is not a body part or a body function.  Most bad words refer to body parts that we’re not supposed to talk about or body functions we’re not supposed to talk about.  What was wrong about saying a word that meant “female dog”?

When I was a kid, I got punished for saying “bad” words like bitch and even for more innocent words like crap.  It ticked me off so much that I even wrote this book Crap Is NOT a Bad Word!: and Other Topics Polite People Don’t Discuss .

Now on Amazon!

What I didn’t understand (and what nobody was willing to explain back then) was that bitch referred to “a female dog in heat,” so calling a woman a bitch implied she was slutty or of low moral character.  Centuries ago when the English language was developing, being called a bitch was worse than being called a whore because a whore was at least being practical.

According to the dictionary, bitch comes from the Old English word bicche which meant “female dog” around the 10th century.  Then sometime in the 1400s, people began using the word as a derogatory term for women.  Nobody knows the name of the person who used the word bitch or bicche as a derogatory term first.  It was tough to keep records of that kind of thing back then.

Despite the recent sexual revolution and changes in language and attitudes, the word bitch is still considered bad.  Maybe it’s not as bad as it used to be, and I hear women use the word more frequently than men, but I still don’t say it much.  I’m more likely to say “son of a bitch” than bitch by itself.

Son of a bitch is an extension of bitch and might even be more commonly used than bitch (I have no proof of this).  When I stub my toe, I don’t yell out “Bitch!”  I yell out “Son of a bitch!”  “Son of a bitch!” is fun to say.

Plus, you’re usually not accused of being a misogynist if you say “son of a bitch,” even if you’re a guy (or a misogynist).  You’re still implying that somebody’s mother is a bitch, which would be considered misogynist if you thought bitch was a misogynist term, but people don’t usually make that accusation, especially after you’ve stubbed your toe.

The word bitch has several meanings now.  Bitch can be used as a noun, which I avoid.  Bitch can also be a verb, as in to complain.  I use the word gripe instead of bitch if I need a one-syllable word for complainGripe doesn’t quite have the forcefulness of bitch, but it makes its point without offending anybody.

Nowadays, calling a woman a bitch implies that she is mean or cold-hearted.  In some ways, the current meaning of bitch is almost the opposite of slutty, which is strange because slut is also a dog reference.  Calling a woman a slutty bitch would either be redundant or an oxymoron.  Either way, I wouldn’t suggest saying it.

*****

When it comes to bad words, bitch is just the beginning.

Find out more (much more!) in Crap Is NOT a Bad Word!

Now available on the Amazon Kindle!

It’s great!  And it’s available on the Amazon Kindle!

From → Etymology

9 Comments
  1. I understand your frustrations I got into trouble if I said liar.

  2. Holy cockfuck, this blog is damn bitchin’! I mean, shit!

  3. My 3 year old just go in trouble tonight for calling her sister “stupid.” I think she probably meant to call her a bitch, but just doesn’t know that word yet!

  4. missindependent1993 permalink

    Fascinating.the word I got in trouble most for using as a child was the word pussy.in my culture it is mainly used to refer to the vagina but can also be used to describe a man who seems to be weak and seems to allow people to walk over him.

    • The word you mentioned was forbidden by my family too, but the four-letter C-word was considered much much worse.

      • missindependent1993 permalink

        I rarely hear the c word used.I mainly hear tourists who come to my country use that word

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