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Why Is Bastard a Bad Word?

September 14, 2017

Even if you don’t watch Game of Thrones, this guy just looks like a bastard.

Saying the word bastard is fun.  When I was a kid, I liked saying bastard, even though I didn’t know what it meant.  I knew what most other forbidden words meant.  I knew what the words shit, damn, and bitch meant, but I didn’t know what a bastard was.  It had to be pretty bad, I thought, because I wasn’t supposed to say it.  I believed at the time that bastard was the male version of bitch.  Maybe a bastard was even a male dog.  Then I found out what a bastard really was.

What a disappointment.

I was surprised that such a cool sounding insult wasn’t very insulting.

Technically, a bastard was a guy who was born out of wedlock.  The word was considered an insult because in the old days, bastards couldn’t inherit anything, and in a society built on a strict class structure, that was a big deal.  Non-bastards would look down upon bastards because non-bastards were socially superior.  Today we would call that non-bastard privilege.

Man, those non-bastards used to get all the breaks.

When I call somebody a bastard, I don’t mean it literally.  I usually have no idea what the guy’s background is.  I’m just using the word bastard because the guy did something I didn’t like and I’m tired of using other derogatory terms like dick or @sshole.  If I had to rank them, I’d probably put bastard between dick and @sshole, with @sshole being the worst, and dick being the least offensive.  A dick is somebody who’s a little worse than a jerk.  A bastard was a dick who deserved two syllables.  An @sshole was somebody who is completely out of control.

I can’t find my definitions anywhere else, so it’s not official.  It’s just the way that I see things.

When I was growing up, bastard was seen as the male version of bitch.  If you called a girl a bitch (which I don’t condone), you weren’t really calling her a dog.  It was just the go-to insult.  You could call a guy a son of a bitch, but sometimes the guy was just a dick but you knew his mom was okay so you didn’t really want to insult the mom by calling her son a son of a bitch.  So you called him a bastard.  Even if it wasn’t literally true.

Maybe bastard shouldn’t really be a bad word, or even an insult.  A guy can’t help it if he’s a bastard.  It’s not a character flaw.  Maybe those old-timer European elitist snobs thought being a bastard was a character flaw, but most people don’t care.  I just like saying the word.

I’d hate to say the word bastard in front of somebody who might be sensitive about it, though.  I’m sure it’s happened, and I just don’t know about it.  I guess I should stop saying the word bastard, just in case that situation come up.  I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings.

But bastard is such a fun word to say.  Bastard!  Bastard!  Bastard!

Ugh, this is going to be a tough habit to break.

*****

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From → Etymology

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