What makes a curse word?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by visceral_instinct, Jul 31, 2009.

  1. visceral_instinct Monkey see, monkey denigrate Valued Senior Member

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    I think the neurological reason would be the emotion you attach to them.

    If we were brought up since childhood to believe that 'obsidian' or 'wolves' were curse words, they'd probably cause the same lowered pain response as 'shit' and 'fuck'.
     
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  3. Nasor Valued Senior Member

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    Bill Bryson's book "The Mother Tongue" has a fascinating and often hilarious chapter on curse words, including many of their origins (the short answer is that for many of them we just don't really know where they came from). It's interesting to read the words/phrases that are potentially deadly insults in some cultures, but sound either laughable or simply nonsensical to everyone else.
     
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  5. visceral_instinct Monkey see, monkey denigrate Valued Senior Member

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    Agreed.

    There is a Tibetan phrase: phai sha sa mkhan. It means 'eater of father's flesh'. In Tibet it has about the same taboo-ness as 'cunt'. Call anyone of another nationality 'eater of father's flesh' and they'd laugh.
     
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