The Awesome Word I Can’t Use

badass: (noun, adj.) an individual considered admirable for having an extreme appearance, attitude or behavior; the quality of being a badass

Ah, swearwords. Offensive language is everywhere: offending conservatives, keeping censors busy and puzzling grammarians.

(In a stunning coincidence, expletive can refer either to a dirty word or a word with a particular syntactic function; swearwords can be both kinds of expletives at the same time!)

I don’t think swearwords are inherently wrong. All the same, foul language demonstrates a lack of respect for people offended by it. Swearing may not be wrong, but disrespect is.

This prevents me from using a really awesome word: badass, the latter half of which comprises a vulgar noun. I can’t find any other word that means the same thing. Most swearwords have euphemistic equivalents. Instead of swearing, I use words like heck and blazes and (when I need an extra-strong intensifier) freaking.

Badass has no such equivalent. It represents the absolute pinnacle of awesomeness, unmarred by even the slightest hint of insecurity, ambivalence or self-consciousness. No other word in the English language does the concept justice: not impressive or cool or even gnarly. Censoring the word for everyday use—bad-ss or bad@$$, for example—is just silly.

Constrained by courtesy, I may never have an inoffensive word for this wonderful idea. Alas!

2 thoughts on “The Awesome Word I Can’t Use

  1. and this is why I sometimes use “B.A.” to refer to badass, although these days I just use “badass” if the person or situation truly requires it.

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