bastard

The words people invent can tell you a lot about the things that matter to them. Like there is a reason we have a word for the internet but no word for the supremely uncomfortable feeling you get when you understand a joke but still don’t think it’s funny and everyone around you is laughing and you’re just standing there like an asshole:

The internet is way more important to us than that feeling.

But sometimes words hang around long after we stop caring about the things they describe. Take the word “bastard.”

“Bastard” used to refer to a kid whose parents weren’t married. For a long time, when you called someone a bastard, you were basically saying, “Your parents were not married when you were born! This accusation should make you feel ashamed if it is true and insulted if it is not true!”

No one thinks about that anymore, of course — it’s just a generic insult — but it shows how deeply people once cared about stupid bullshit like whether your parents were willing to get and stay married even if they didn’t particularly like each other.

Of course, people still care about all kinds of stupid bullshit, and we have the words to prove it. We’ll talk more about those things later.