Hello SOTGC community,
I love words. I love anything related to words – both written and spoken. I collect quotes like a hoarder on reality T.V. Words can evoke intense emotion. They can transport us to another world. When strung together they can paint powerful images in our mind’s eye more vivid than any Matisse masterpiece.
I’m especially intrigued by the origins of words and how their meanings evolve over time. When did the word “gay” stop meaning joyful and merry? Why are certain words considered profane while others – even those with the same meaning – considered perfectly acceptable?
Take the f-word. Although the exact origin of this volatile word is unknown, most scholars believe it was a gift from the Germans (not from an Anglo-Saxon acronym, as urban legend would have us believe). According to Melissa Mohr, the author of Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing, the f-word first appeared in 16th Century monastery documents. It wasn’t even a swearword. It was simply another way of saying sexual intercourse. It wasn’t until the mid-nineteenth century that some buttoned-up Victorians decided otherwise. Pfft!
There is another f-word that I believe is even more upsetting, more offensive, than any bleep-worthy text in the English language. That word is fail. According to the dictionary, fail means to fall short, to be unsuccessful or, worse yet, to be of no use or help to. I don’t want to offend anyone, but I respectfully call BS on this negative interpretation. Fail is not a dirty word. On the contrary, fail can be a beautiful, empowering word – if we’re willing to change our perspective.
Let me tell you a story. There once was a father who saw the world differently than others. He would often look across the dinner table at his young daughter and ask, “What have you failed at this week?” You see, in his mind, failure was a good thing. He believed failure was the ultimate key to success. As the daughter grew up, she experienced a string of “failures” – kissed a lot of frogs, so to speak – all of which helped her learn and grow. Those lessons led to the happiest of endings as she became the youngest self-made billionaire in all the land (America, that is). That girl: Sara Blakely. That fairytale business: Spanx.
Let’s start a verbal revolution. Let’s change the way people think about this f-word. Let’s help others realize that failure is not about reaching a specific outcome. As Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” True failure comes from not trying at all.
So, the next time some vulgar fool says you failed, take it as a compliment. Simply smile, think about everything you learned from the experience, and say, “Thanks, b!+ch.”