Language Shift–Gods Darn it!
When I speak, I do my best to actually mean what I say. I choose words carefully for their best meaning for what I mean to express. I am highly aware of the power of words. But some things are tough to beat. The biggest problem is that I swear like a sailor. I come from a working-class background, in an area of the country with an odd dialect. Swearing emphasized the emotion of what you were saying, it showed your passion.
Of course when I found my inner Pagan-ness (seems a more fitting description than “conversion”, doesn’t it?) my perspective changed. Besides, I was in college (and, at the time, a private one at that) and was definitely out-classed and it was time to grow up and quit swearing. I endeavored to change my favored exclamation from “Jeeeezus Christ!” to “By the many Gods!” and trade out “Goddamnit” to “Gods blast it!”. I even looked to the literature, to some old Greek expressions which variously translate to “By Zeus’s foot” and “Poseiden’s beard”. But those are really hard to remember when you stub your toe in the middle of the night. Or to say “Goddess bless you” and “Goddess bless America”. I just really wanted to express myself more accurately.
Well, that was an abysmal failure. My colleagues teased me about taking my new identity way too seriously, and indeed, they could hardly take what I was saying seriously. I had never intended to rub my identity in anyone’s face, and now the best I can do is “oh, my Gods” and shorten it in a text message to “OMGs!” Some dialects are just too hard to beat.
It doesn’t even make sense to swear to Jesus because I don’t believe he can help me, or ask his God to damn something since I don’t believe in Hell, where damned things go. I’m certainly not asking for Jesus’ help as I’m more inclined to ask someone who rules the domain rather than put more on Jesus’ to-do list. I didn’t realize until I started practicing Paganism just how our language is full of Christian metaphor.
Of course, it get’s easier when I’m in my kindred company, although it takes me awhile to get into it (and usually by the time one does get into it, the festival is over anyhow). I don’t care for having a split persona (there’s enough un-integrated stuff in my life without having two distinct dialects!) but don’t want to be ostracized for my choice in language.
What do you think? Did you make any language chances when you started practicing? How did others react to your new linguistic choices?