Can You Swear in English?


Who creates "swear words" or profanity?

Swearing, cursing, cussing, talking dirty, = profanity. What exactly is 'swearing'? Obscenities, strong language - yes, racial epithets - certainly, insults based on sexuality and or disabilities - unfortunately true, and religious mockery. Swearing in one form or another has existed since ancient times. It was a verbal exclamation of displeasure, anger or social class and oddly enough even as a form of art in the dark ages. ( roughly 500 - 1500AD) Swearing eventually made it to the written word and became a permanent part of our languages.

For the purpose of explanation and language examples, I will use the English swear word "shit". Medical word is feces, baby word is Poop.

We can swear in many different ways: Descriptively (I need to take a shit = go to the bathroom), Emphatically ( this shit is amazing ), Idiomatically (shit happens), Abusively ( you look like shit ), and Cathartically (Shit!!!!!! - sort of meaning OH no! ).

Why is the language of profanity different for most cultures?

Part of your culture is your language and language is the instrument used for communication. Swearing is often used for social bonding, group membership and exhibiting solidarity.

The French use words about the catholic church, the English use words about body parts & functions, the Koreans use vocabulary about animals and the Japanese hardly at all. The Japanese believe in an idea known as kotodama which is a belief that language directly influences reality (Maynard, 2002).

Swearing often uses culturally taboo words - taboo means things that are forbidden. Some vocabulary is considered sacred or not proper to speak of, in a hostile or emotional manner - it is usually religious organizations and the media who determine which words are considered taboo. Now in order to swear properly and every language learner will pick up on the language obscenities / taboo words, you need fluency in that particular language. Swearing involves emotion, context, and even occasional humor. Swearing puts emphasis on a speaker's message so the intonation and word stress must be accurate to portray the speaker's emotional excitement.

Can I teach you these obscenities? - NO. As a teacher, I will never back away from explaining the origin of a word, what it means and how it is used in context, however, I am not comfortable teaching an English learner "how to swear". Watch TV, listen to music, read and you will pick up the lingo of swearing way before you will ever understand the English prepositions!

For almost all English swear words there are similar sounding 'safe' words. Example: instead of saying Hell, you can say Heck; instead of Shit you can say Shoot; Darn instead of Damn and so on. As a child, I knew all of these 'safe' words and used them to intentionally get my parents or actually any adult to ask me: WHAT did you say?" Then I would smugly announce exactly what I said and I couldn't be faulted or reprimanded for swearing. I was always a Sh_t Disturber!!

See this picture of a "swear jar" me at Ole Academy and I will teach you how swearing can make you money!! to reserve your lesson. OleAcademy-OnlineEnglish

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