All of us judge words as appropriate or not based on our version of life. For example I’m pretty sure there are not many teenagers who use the word awesome anymore. But then I would never use the word sick.
One of my early blogs had fun considering word choice:
Taking this a step further, imagine a world where every word you said gave away exactly who you were: where you were from, your sex, your age, what type of family you grew up in, and what your socio-economic standing was.
As in one of my favorite old movies, “My Fair Lady”, I came to understand language in a new way when I lived in England for a while. There were words I would learn from one person that, when said in the company of others would raise eyebrows. It was difficult for them to explain what was wrong with the word, only that it sounded rough. One such word was naff. The Urban dictionary defines the word as:
British slang, today meaning uncool, tacky, unfashionable, worthless... or as a softer expletive, in places where one might use "fuck" as in "naff off", "naff all", "naffing about".
Without the Urban Dictionary to help me 11 years ago, I had to decide for myself how appropriate the word was for my own, personal usage and also in what company I could employ it.
It is probably telling that the women who I overheard seemed to be discussing church related activities. In this context, I can understand the apology. I can also see where language slips out unintentionally. When as a writer I am sloppy with words, the reader can feel a dissonance between the character I am describing and the one who speaks on the pages. Used purposefully in writing, however, we can give glimpses into our character’s nature and the conflicts they face in their circles of friends and acquaintances.
Glimpses like a mom who deals with her kids’ crap all day and then can’t speak about it with the lovely church ladies in her quilting circle. This is a mom most of us could relate to I think.