Taboo is not just a board game Mormons like to play on Sunday nights (or Friday nights, depending on what crowd you roll with). Taboo is a way to use language as power. Taboo words can shock, offend, and even damage another. By overusing a taboo word, you can essentially strip it of it's power to harm. The gays did it when they adopted the term for themselves. So did the Mormons. Both originally "taboo" references for their culture.
The amazing thing about taboo language is that it really CAN hold power- if we let it. Last week I asked you about your use of "douche bag" verses "tool." Similar meanings in that a tool will take the parking space you've been waiting properly for; a douche will do it on purpose- just to piss you off. (Thanks, Matty.) The basic consensus is that a tool is a blunt instrument, worthless on it's own unless yielded with some skill by the one who possesses it. Dumb. Lame. But with no malintent. A douche- on the other hand (and this is graphic, so I apologize)- essentially a douche will get inside you, take you for all you've got, clean you out and expel himself when he's gotten what he wants, leaving you empty inside. Malicious. Cruel. And selfish.
I have a particular abhorrence for the latter term, as it is graphic and incredibly distasteful. But it is becoming more and more commonly used. And this worries me. If we use such strong language to describe someone who simply wears pooka-shell neclaces and visors, how will that word hold meaning when it is really necessary? It's much like the boy who cried wolf. If you've got something to say, be aware of the language you're using. It may seem acceptable. You might think it sounds edgy or cool. But in the end, the more you use it, the less of an effect it will have on your audience. And if your intention is to warn a friend from going out with a real douchebag, you'd better save it for the truly, horribly disgusting, self-centered pigs that (unfortunately) really DO exist.