Those of you who’ve checked out the first and second parts of this blog will already know that the English language is rampant with words you never knew were offensive. But unfortunately, it doesn’t stop there; there are even more words just waiting to be revealed for their true selves.
Rule of thumb
You might have heard of this one before… In the 1800s, a judge ruled that a man was allowed to beat his wife with any implement of his choosing, so long as it was narrower than his thumb.
Off the reservation
Have you come across this niche phrase before? It describes those acting in a different way to that which is expected of them. Back in the 1800s, it referred to Native Americans who had ‘unlawfully’ left the areas the US government had dictated they were to remain in. Natives that were described as ‘off the reservation’ would often be arrested.
This one’s something of a red herring, since the offensive origin of the word isn’t really that different to its contemporary application. But the word has probably become more offensive since taking on a more colloquial meaning and a more frequent usage.
Once upon a time, a ‘Moron’ used to refer very specifically to somebody with an IQ between 50 and 69, who have since come to be known as ‘mildly intellectually disabled’. It’s derived from the earlier Greek môros, which had a similar meaning as ‘dull’ ‘sluggish’ or ‘stupid’. There are lots of other words that have meanings with extremely similar derivations that you just wouldn’t use today due to their social unacceptability.
So, just remember where this term comes from (and it’s extremely offensive synonyms) next time you jokingly refer to your friend as one.
Language translation services
These are just a few of the tricky offensive words in the English language. If you’re looking to avoid these semantic complexities in your next international marketing campaign, it will pay to be aware of similar offensive words lurking in your target language.
A native-level speaker working on your language translation services should help you stay on the right side of the line. Luckily, we’ve got a few to hand.