Swear words

April 30th, 2010 by ftobia

There is this stigma against swear words, that they somehow make or signal that the speaker uncultured; or that they are associated with uncouthness, or associate the user with the underbelly of society; and that they betray a lack of thought or eloquence on the part of the user. There are a lot of different spins on this idea. I think that any way you cut it, this is a fallacy.

I have heard that intelligent people should be able to think of a different way to express oneself than to use swear words. That’s not correct. Swear words have been shown to evoke certain emotional responses in listeners that hearing pseudo-swears don’t exhibit. For example, compare “what the eff?” with its more vulgar equivalent, and you will find there is indeed a difference. The emotions evoked by using and hearing swear words are ineffable. And let me tell you, “ineffable” is a frakking awesome word.

I found this post on a New York Times blog, and I just have to quote from it:

People need special words to convey emotion, which is, by nature, ineffable. For those who use them, swear words are linked to emotion in a visceral way. People who speak more than one language report that they always curse in their native tongue; they can say swear words in a second language but they don’t feel them — the gut link to emotions just isn’t there.

Yes, I think there is a time and a place for using intense language. If we use curses everywhere they lose their power, and we will probably lose the ability to express ourselves to the best of our abilities. But they fill a valuable niche in the vernacular of a cultured human, and one which necessarily cannot be filled through other means.

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply


Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.