Choice words?

中国日报网 2018-03-23 11:57



Choice words?Reader question:

The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English explains “a few choice words” this way: “If you use a few choice words, you say exactly what you want to say in an angry way.”


My comments:

Because choice words, well, like choice wines and choice chocolates, are obviously not something to come by every day, i.e. normally and easily.

“Choice” indicates an act of choosing or making a choice. In the examples of “choice wines” and “choice chocolates”, “choice” literally means that they are specially chosen or picked – from a large group of wines and chocolates.

They are specially picked because, in other words, they’re especially good and worthy, much better than what’s normal, commonplace and average.

Choice words are likewise specially chosen words to convey special meanings – except they’re NOT picked because they’re especially good and worthy, i.e. good sounding or favorable to hear.

Quite the contrary. As a matter of fact, choice words are often times euphemisms for four-letter words or swear words or curse words and other obscene words that are sometimes not even fit for print or repetition.

And often times, not always but often times, as the Longman dictionary explains, choice words are used when people are angry, very angry – at someone or about something.

Normally, you see, when people want to say something, they say it – using the first words that come to mind.

But when they’re angry, really angry, they may begin to swear and condemn and use words that are obscene and sacrilegious.

Obscene meaning disgusting and offensive; sacrilegious meaning disrespectful in a religious way, bringing gods and deities, for instance, into the conversation.

This is how terrible sounding words too bad to repeat – “or remember”, in the words of Nelly the maid in Wuthering Heights – become known as choice words.

Or even if the chosen words are not that bad, they’re not things people usually say in ordinary conversation. Not in polite society, at any rate.

In any case, they’re called choice words because, presumably, the speakers have all done a lot of picking and choosing before coming up with that particular vulgarity and not any other – and there is certainly a large cesspool of obscenities to choose from.

Anyhow, “choice words” stand for unutterable vulgarities in one form or another, which are understood perfectly within context even if they’re not printed out.

So here are a few contexts via recent media (Note: The “expletive” in Example 3 represents a cussword that’s not printable):

1. Late-night talk show host and frequent President Trump critic Jimmy Kimmel had a few choice words for the president’s oldest son Friday, calling Donald Trump Jr. an “imbecile” who does little more than tweeting.

In an interview aired Friday on “Good Morning America,” Mr. Kimmel addressed Mr. Trump Jr.’s recent attacks against him for not addressing the Harvey Weinstein scandal on his show sooner. The first son criticized Mr. Kimmel, who has spoken out on his show about controversial topics like gun control and health care, for not addressing the numerous sexual harassment allegations against the disgraced Hollywood mogul immediately after the news initially broke.

“He’s an idiot, let’s just start with that,” Mr. Kimmel fired back during his interview. “This is an imbecile whose job seems to be tweeting as far as I can tell.”

- Jimmy Kimmel: Donald Trump Jr. an ‘idiot,’ ‘imbecile’ whose job is to tweet,, October 13, 2017.

2. Jeremy Clarkson and Elon Musk are two of the most outspoken people in the auto industry, and when these two cross paths, fireworks will inevitably start. Ok, so the two haven’t physically met, but Clarkson did have some choice words for Musk during a conversation with the Daily Beast. Not one to mince his words, Jezza called Musk “petulant” and has “sour grapes” over losing a pair of lawsuits he filed against Clarkson’s old show, Top Gear.

The issues between the two started back in 2008 when Clarkson put the Tesla Roadster to task for running out of power and suffering from brake failure during an episode of Top Gear. Peeved at how the car was reviewed, Musk filed a libel suit against the show, claiming that it faked those scenes for the sake of “entertainment.” He lost the libel case, appealed it, lost again, and has become a critic of Clarkson ever since.

In his own words, Clarkson described his history with Musk to the Daily Beast. “He sued me and lost, he appealed and lost,” he said. “You go online and you read that we ‘made it up,’ that we ‘faked it’… We didn’t.”

“You see, if anybody is going to get sued, I mean you can’t say that sort of thing. I could say all sorts of things about Musk but I won’t. Musk doesn’t like losing. Unfortunately, he did twice… He’s just got sour grapes.”

- Jeremy Clarkson Has Some Choice Words For Elon Musk,, December 22, 2017.

3. Eminem has some choice words for Donald Trump.

The rapper didn't hold back his thoughts on the president during an interview with Billboard Thursday, describing his rhetoric as “disgusting” and “divisive.”

“I know that Hillary (Clinton) had her flaws, but you know what? Anything would have been better (than Trump). A (expletive) turd would have been better as a president,” he said.

This isn’t the first time the rapper has spoken up about Trump. He lashed out at the president in a fiery freestyle rap, The Storm, that debuted during the BET Hip Hop Awards in October and called him out in an interview with The New York Times in December.

“I (hesitate) to say (I have) hatred in my heart for him, but it’s serious contempt. I do not like the guy,” he explained.

The 45-year-old also said he wouldn't hold back from going after Trump to please his fans (if any of them are Trump supporters).

“At the end of the day, if I did lose half my fan base, then so be it, because I feel like I stood up for what was right and I’m on the right side of this,” he said.

- Eminem keeps slamming Donald Trump, saying he doesn’t care if he loses half his fans,, January 27, 2018.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)

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