Many, when they hear the word 'whore' think of sexual promiscuity. They can't get past that, they may even see its use as a condemnation of women's freedom. So I learned not to use it (most of the time, anyway...occasionally it just fits).
But I would never have intended it to have that meaning. To me, a whore is someone who sells him or herself -- for whatever purpose. I don't particularly think of sex when I employ the word.
It just goes to show the cultural differences that can exist within, well, a culture. Different backgrounds, different educations or upbringings, lead to very different understandings of everyday language. And the way we use language very much impacts the way we think.
For words provide the metaphors and symbols that allow complex thought. They shape it, they shade it. They do so differently for each of us, sometimes subtly, sometimes quite radically.
If we speak completely different languages, the difference will be even greater. Does not a Spanish speaker, to whom all things are either male or female, regard the world differently than we who see most objects as neuter?
Ultimately, each of us speaks our own language. Each of us has a unique set of connotations, of implications, for the words we hear and say. You hear 'whore' and have a different picture than the person next to you.
It's a wonder we can communicate at all!
I've admitted before to a fascination with this aspect of language. It is a part of what drives my own writing, the nuances of metaphor and symbol, the myriad meanings hidden within a word. No matter how carefully I might choose those words, they will mean something different to my reader than to me.
Yet, if I am skillful enough, that reader will suspect that there are other meanings. That is certainly one of the purposes of poetry, to broaden our understanding of metaphors and, therefore, our ability to think outside that cliche of a box.
Ah, the comfort of cliche. I've certainly fallen back on it at times, written what I think people want to hear. Not that there is anything wrong with wanting ones work to be accessible; the point is to communicate, after all. Still, there are times when I feel that I would trade any and all attempts at insight for a number one song.
But then I would be a whore, wouldn't I? ;)
Stephen Brooke ©2012