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  1. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    Rehabilitate Swear-Words?

    Discussion in 'Debate Room' started by Gallowglass, Feb 20, 2014.

    Should society drop the taboo around swear-words like f***, s***, b*******, a***, and others? I think it should, and my thinking goes like this:

    At one point those words were all perfectly legitimate words for things - they weren't a bad way to say 'vagina,' for instance, they were just another way. The Anglo-Saxon way, to be precise, like 'grande' is the Italian way of saying 'big' - a direct translation. It was the Norman invasion that deemed them 'uncouth,' and fashion-conscious Saxons followed suit. Given that the social circumstances of the 11th century are thankfully no longer important to us, why not drop the stigma on these words and use older and newer English vocabulary interchangeably as we do with pairs like 'big' and 'large,' 'buy' and 'purchase,' etc.?

    As a society we've made massive strides in not judging others over silly little things, yet in this regard we still sing from the hymn-sheet of medieval ghosts?
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I've become pretty numb to the impact of swear words because of my profession. Working as an interpreter for the U.S. Courts system, many of the people for whom I serve as live interpreter or for whom I translate sworn statements are people from the "underworld". Not exactly a place where swear words carry much shock value. When you find yourself reviewing the interpretation job you just did with your peers and asking questions like, "He said cabrĂ³n, but he said it really forcefully. I interpreted it as asshole. Do you think I should have said fucker instead? Yeah, I think fucker feels more right for that kind of situation. Next time I'll use fucker," it's then that you know these words have lost their teeth for you. ;)

    BTW, funny that this question should be coming from a Scot. In America, we have a perception that the swear words that make ladies faint over here are commonly used by grannies and nuns over there. :D
     
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  3. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree. It is really silly. People would be offended if I drop something and say "Shit!" but would not if I said "Feces!"
     
  4. Herbert H Hebert
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    Herbert H Hebert Member

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    It'll never work. Silly, neurotic people will be silly, neurotic people, and that's that.
     
  5. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    The logic of swear words that my parents used in raising my brother and I was the no direct object rule. It was perfectly fine to drop a massive, even repeated f-bomb at the stubbing of a toe (especially a pinky toe), but a "fuck you" was spanking time. And my parents are latinos. Old-school latinos. Spankings in an old-school latino house are not for the weak or sensitive.
     
  6. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    I should introduce you to my Great Aunt. She'd take her wooden spoon to the back of your legs for using that amount of profanity in your posts. (Apparently, in her day, cussing was out, but corporal punishment was very much de rigeur. I watched my Ps and Qs around that one. ;))
     
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  7. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I'm sure the perception we have here is seriously skewed given that we only get a certain amount of media from the U.K., and what does come this way tends to be polarized. Either of the very high-brow David Attenborough variety or of the Trainspotting, Mongrels* variety.

    * (Mongrels was never aired over and was something I found by random chance, later downloading both series. What a bloody good show! How did it only last two seasons??)
     
  8. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    The c*** word, y'know, the big one, is used pretty casual as banter between friends in Scotland, so yeah, I'd say we're more relaxed. England is rather down-to-earth, but not to that extent. Not so sure about old grannies, though :rolleyes:
     
  9. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    @Wreybies *Not sure what that was all about. It did bear a striking similarity to a Channel 4 show. Perhaps that became a bone of contention although, given that it made it through to the second season, it does seem a bit implausible.
     
  10. Herbert H Hebert
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    Herbert H Hebert Member

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    W.C. Fields used to have fun with the censors by making up silly variations of swear words. Lots of euphemisms started up that way.

    Here's a writers' exercise for everyone: Come up with sarcastic euphemisms, that technically aren't swear words, but do little or nothing to blunt the impact. I'll start...

    "Belgium your mother!"

    "Come and get it in the yarbles!"

    "Godfrey Daniels!"

    "Your mother's a sex worker."
     
  11. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    I'm against taking the taboo off swear words, but what I do want to understand is this: why is it "okay" to swear as an adult, but not as a child? Parents do all they can to protect their children from hearing swear words, yet will use them frequently themselves and will be fine with their children saying it at around twelve and above (at least, I know parents like that). Why is this? I obviously understand keeping them away from drugs and sex, but that's because it can damage a young body, and used in certain ways, can severely damage adults, too. You could argue that it's psychologically damaging, but then if everybody did it and said things, it wouldn't be damaging, would it? Or if it were, no one would notice because they'd all be just as damaged themselves! :D

    I'm not having a go. I'm just curious. Trying to see the logic.
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    bottom line:
    humans are f'ing silly buggers! :rolleyes:
     
  13. Liam Johnson
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    Liam Johnson Member

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    I live in Warrington, which is squarely between Manchester and Liverpool-- two massively supported sporting cities whom are arch rivals in football (soccer). Honestly, it's more shocking to find someone who doesn't 'eff and blind' like it's going out of style. Curses are so common in their speech over here, that they barely have any impact anymore. "Cunt" remains the one word that does hold some sway. It's the only one banned on terrestrial TV, post-watershed. I once knew a girl called Bianca whom could swear better than anyone I've met in my life. By that I mean she knew exactly when are where to use them best :p
     
  14. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm a bit against removing the taboo from these words because it's the taboo that gives them their power. We need words in the language that have some shock value.

    One word I want to have no taboo at all is "bullshit." It's such a great word and is perfect for what it actually means. Bullshit isn't just an untruth, it's anything that prevents people from seeing the truth. Bullshit can mean something that's true, but is irrelevant to the topic. For example, if someone questions a Republican senator about the war in Iraq, and the senator just rants for a while about Obama being responsible for Benghazi, that's bullshit. Bullshit can mean jokes, anecdotes, or anything else that distracts attention from the truth. Whatever confuses, distracts, and/or misinforms people is bullshit. There really is no other word for what bullshit means, so we need to be able to use it in any circumstances, whether we're complaining about a referee's call in a hockey game or writing an academic paper on the history of Icelandic government.

    Liberate "bullshit." We need it! (The word, I mean, not what it represents.)
     
  15. Garball
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    Garball Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand. Supporter Contributor

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    What I love is that any word can be a cuss word depending on how you use it. My oldest brother used to call me "Mutual of Omaha" and I thought it was the worst thing ever.
    In writing and speaking, I believe they have a rightful place. My dad believes cuss words are for the ignorant who don't have a large enough vocabulary or mastery of their language to express how they actually feel. I disagree. If I stub my toe, fiddlesticks or "I am feeling sharp pain because the chair leg colliding with my toe elevated my pain above my threshold and caused Na/K reactions sending messages to my brain!"
    A simple "fuck!" will suffice, or like me, stringing every vulgar word together like Yosemite Sam
     
  16. Herbert H Hebert
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    Herbert H Hebert Member

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    1. What if the initial topic is irrelevant to the situation, and we want to change it to something more relevant to the situation? What's so all fired holy about the topic anyway?
    If a kid is blabbering endlessly about how much he loves his Power Rangers, and you mention it's time to go, is that bullshit?

    2. What if someone thinks something you brought up is irrelevant, but he's simply not smart enough to see the connection, and you are? What's to stop him from calling 'bullshit' on you and thus preventing you from explaining how it's actually relevant?

    3. If a someone is talking about Benghazi, and you bring up Iraq, which one of you is being irrelevant to the topic? Just what is the topic anyway, and who gets to say?

    It's all too common these days for a politician to dismiss as a 'distraction' anything he doesn't want to talk about. To a self-absorbed narcissist, anything other than his personal hobby horse is irrelevant. To the rest of us, what he considers relevant is, to us, bullshit.
     
  17. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    I would argue whether you can remove taboo language from a society. Even if you removed all the ones we currently have, I believe society would create new ones.
     
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  18. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I actually agree. People do always need to have swear words to express that immediate sensation of anger and frustration. I suppose the issue I see is just how bent out of shape some people get at hearing them.
     
  19. Herbert H Hebert
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    Herbert H Hebert Member

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    I've recently had a reminder that people can respond to unpalatable truths with even more ferocity and self righteousness than to unpalatable words, and in an eerily similar manner. Could there be similar psychological forces operating in both cases?

    Words have connotations. Ugly words have ugly connotations. That's the only thing that makes the words ugly. And nobody likes ugly things. But the world is full of ugly things, and it's cowardly and stupid not to face them.

    Therefore we need ugly words, and we need people brave enough to hear them. Sqeamishness is a form of cowardice. Excessive daintiness is neurotic.

    By the way, can someone suggest a suitable euphemism for an angry asshole with an automatic weapon opening fire on a dance floor?
     
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  20. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    After the Norman invasion, the social divide was shown with the upper class using French words and lower class using Anglo-Saxon words. After kicking the French butts out of the isles, I can understand the aversion towards French-derived vocabulary. I find it interesting that many of the common swear words are of Proto-Germanic origin (fuck, shit, cunt) instead of French. Hmmm...

    That aside, as an exclamation, I don't mind if the word is no longer a taboo as then what matters is how the word rolls out of your mouth. Words with strong, rhotic 'r's and/or harsh 'k's are the best.

    But as an intensifier, if the word has lost its taboo mojo, it's not quite so effective. Or maybe it's not so much about how taboo it is but how often it's used. If "fucking" is thrown around too much, it's just not so effective as a substitute to "very" or "really" as it would be if used more sparingly.

    Censoring and bleeping out swear words on TV is bullshit, as far as I'm concerned. In the '90s and early '00s you could still say any swear word on Finnish national TV or on the radio, but not anymore. Parents go apeshit if their little darlings are exposed to such smut. All it does is help mommy and daddy to sleep peacefully, thinking they've done their parental duties, since what the kids learn at school is out of their hands anyway. Pointless and hypocritical, afaic.

    Oh so there are Brits who swear, after all :p

    I used to frequent this British writing forum, and the mods just went batshit crazy if anything even potentially offensive appeared on the boards (unless posted by their friends). 'Fuck' had to be censored to 'fluff', 'shit' to 'crap' and if you weren't careful, you just got your ass banned for disturbing other posters. Trouble was, you could never quite tell what was too offensive for the mod squad. Even the word 'porn' was too much, used in the context of 'gun porn' because a bunch of stupid Brits thought that meant sticking gun barrels up your ass in front of the camera or something. You couldn't even use the word 'slut' in jest 'cause that's offensive towards women. I guess calling a man a 'slut' is ok then.

    After that experience, I was in shock. Writers, writers who were that concerned of taboos! I felt like taboofying so many words and topics from a writer's vocabulary quenched creativity.

    So, in conclusion, I'm not decided about the issue yet. I understand that swear words don't belong to certain situations as they can make you look foolish and immature, but on the other hand, I don't quite understand censorship or trying to shield your offspring from " bad words." Sure, when I have kids I'm gonna tell them to keep their mouths clean when we're eating or if my unborn daughter becomes the flower girl at my then best friend's wedding and she happens to drop the bouqet on the aisle, spreading rose petals all over the place, she should know that's not the time or the place to throw the f-bomb.
     
  21. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    This is actually a linguistic fact, JJ. Words are signifiers. They point to ideas, concepts, action and things. Those ideas, concepts, actions and things exist separate and sundry from the words that signify them. You can either remove or defang the word fuck as an explicative, but the intent, feelings and situations that give rise to the uttering of the explicative still exist. Something else will quickly take the place.
     
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  22. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    That's why I think some actions are weird. It's not the word that is considered taboo, but the feelings and definitions behind it. If someone who never learned English was taught the word 'Fuck' without context, they would be acting no less immorally than if they had said 'Apple'.
     
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  23. Liam Johnson
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    Liam Johnson Member

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    Jesus. That sounds ridiculous, whomever must've ran that forum can only have been some pretentious grammar Nazi- we have our fair share of those too. The commonly projected image of an English person, usually something like a Hugh Laurie, Steven Fry type figure is far from what most of us are like. Maybe in the south of the UK, you'll find some of those type figures, whom usually take themselves too seriously. Have a look at this video of Karl Pilkington being interviewed by the 'prim & proper' and just imagine a few curses placed in per sentence. That's basically you're typical, dour, Northern Englishman. He's actually made a career on parodying the archetypal Northern Englishman. This video is basically the two halves of England in one interview.



    But yeah, we definitely swear! A lot.
     
  24. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    To quote my Grandmother, (may she rest in peace):

    "You've a mouth on you like a trooper."

    She had a point. I curse rather a lot, but it's very seldom used for anything other than when I f**k up, or injure myself. I avoid using swear words directly at other people.

    In Belfast, having a foul mouth is the norm not the exception. Doesn't matter where people grew up, how they were raised, cursing seems as natural to us our tendency to find toilet humour hysterically funny.
     
  25. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Precisely. ;) William often gets a kick out saying the F word and occasionally even the N word at me just to watch me react. To him these words are just noises. He knows what they mean, but he's not enculturated to their use so they have no emotive source for him, no more than 'Apple", as you just pointed out. It's funny to him to watch me blanche at the hearing of the N word, particularly since in America he would be slotted into the category of "black" according to the rule of hypodescent. I've argued with him that this is no excuse, but again, to him it's just silly because they're just sounds to him. *shrug*
     
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