# Why do we curse?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by John J. Bannan, Jul 2, 2007.

1. ### John J. BannanRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
1,471
Why do curses just feel so good? And who says being a gutter mouth is poor speech?

3. ### OrleanderOH JOY!!!!Valued Senior Member

Messages:
25,817
I think if a person swears and yells, their message gets lost. I am more apt to listen to a person who gets his message across calmly. I try very hard not to swear because I feel its vulgar and uneducated.

5. ### OliHeute der Enteteich...Registered Senior Member

Messages:
11,888
Swearing is like any other part of language - used indiscrimately it becomes meaningless.
Used at the right time it can be a very effective form of communication.

7. ### Fraggle RockerStaff Member

Messages:
24,690
It's a scream of pain or anger, uttered by a species with language who can do more than yowl.

If you're referring to actual blasphemy, using the name of gods and prophets, it goes back to the days when people believed more in the woo-woo part of Christianity than most anglophones do these days. To "take the lord's name in vain" was to dare that lord to smite you down right where you stood. To curse someone so viciously as to actually beg your god to damn them, or to ask for Jesus Christ to get the horse manure off of your boot, while flirting with being turned into a pillar of salt yourself, was a sign that you were not merely angry, but REALLY PISSED OFF.

There was a time when epithets like "zounds" were in use, a contraction of "god's wounds," meaning presumably the nail holes on Jesus's body. An oath: "By god's wounds, I will get that foul mosquito if I have to chase him to the ends of the earth." By eliding the "god" out of it, people hoped that it would not actually call down the wrath of same, as well as not offending polite company quite as deeply. "Gadzooks" is a similar sanitized version that was even permitted on radio shows.

Mere profanity such as words for excrement, body parts, sexual acts, etc., is a similar struggle to find new, effective ways to express how hurt or angry you are. To get people's attention through outrage. "Oh heck," or "a pox on both your houses" (Shakespeare) just don't do it after a few generations. Our screams of pain and anger lose their force when they've been uttered and heard too many times, so we're in a constant struggle to find fresh, offensive new words. "Damn" and "hell" lost their edge 30-40 years ago. Now "crap," "piss" and several other "bad words" that would have gotten me in serious trouble as a kid are PG-13. Half the population, probably including my half, use the F word and the S word so often that they're practically meaningless noise words like "the" and "uh."
In a democracy, the people decide. Today most city-dwelling Americans don't raise an eyebrow over an occasional "four-letter word." But they look down on people who overuse profanity, for the very reason that those really are noise words that weight their speech down with meaninglessness. A steady stream of curse words sounds to most of us like an attempt to extract the last bit of outrage from those words before they become next year's "hell" and "damn." Why does this person need to express so much anger and pain, so constantly? And if so, why is he so inarticulate that he can't do it with real words and tell us why he feels so much anger and pain?

That's why many of us are impatient with rap music. Okay homie, we get the point that you're angry. How about increasing your vocabulary by just a few dozen more words so you could tell us why?

People really don't want their children learning to talk in excessive profanity because they don't want them to grow up like inarticulate rappers who can't express themselves. (Yes yes I know some rap stars have a decent command of the language.) In recognition of that we have a (possibly new) policy of not allowing SciForums members to include obscenities in their screen names. We don't want parents looking at their kids' screens and seeing that the most recent post in the Geology subforum was by M-----F----- and deciding to block the site. There are people out there who really want to be known by names like that. I guess they're not all rappers.

8. ### John J. BannanRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
1,471
So, we curse because our emotions don't give us the patience to find better words to describe our emotions? Sounds good to me.

9. ### iceauraValued Senior Member

Messages:
27,105
Cursing is hostile, like a dog barking. Continual hostility, like a dog that won't shut up, is tedious and irritating. It's also weak, unless really creative: someone who needs to get fired up to deal with minor difficulties is not necessarily someone I would count on in real trouble.

10. ### mikenosticStop pretending you're smart!Registered Senior Member

Messages:
4,624
Not that I'm advocating it, but I'm pretty sure someone who is swearing incessantly at you at any given moment, really doesn't give a rat's ass what you think of it.
I wasn't taking a shot at you; I was just saying that a person who's pissed off to the point of swearing every other word; the last thing that is on their mind is whether or not someone is offended.
I've been pissed to the point where I was swearing incessantly, but it's usually when I'm by myself or not directing it towards anyone. If I'm pissed at customer service or someone like that, I'll let them know that I'm upset, but will hardly ever use swear words and will still treat them with respect. I for one, don't like dealing with or even talking to pissed off customers who can't stop swearing.
"golly gee whiz", "shucks", "dangit/darnit to heck" just doesn't seem to get the point across as well as..."@#%$%@#$^%^%^*&@!" sometimes.

11. ### darksidZzValued Senior Member

Messages:
4,922
f*i*ng mo*f*ers I at** ya to dea**th f*ing get me a *ob from *irl !!!

12. ### Baron MaxRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
23,053
Why take the time and effort to search for other words when the curse words will do the trick? And usually at those times, one doesn't like to take extra time to get their thoughts out.

One of General George Armstrong Custer's last words were: "Oh, shit! Look at all them fuckin' Indians!" Now what other words could have conveyed that same, desperate, fearful situation so effectively?

Baron Max

13. ### shorty_37Go! Canada Go!Registered Senior Member

Messages:
12,140
"oh faeces! Look at all them fricken Indians!

14. ### Baron MaxRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
23,053
Those are curse words, Shorty, whether you want to admit it or not. You're just using different words as if they're "nice words" ....they ain't. Everyone knows the translations, and they know what you were/are thinking, so ....you're swearing, simple as that.

Baron Max

15. ### OrleanderOH JOY!!!!Valued Senior Member

Messages:
25,817
I'm thinking a calmly stated "Heaven Help Us" would have been more bone chilling that an angry "F%^K!!! Look at them damn Indians!!"

Just because you can swear, doesn't mean you should. Its called MANNERS. Its why some men get laid and others don't.

Messages:
12,140
lolol

17. ### Baron MaxRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
23,053
But others don't think so. See? You have to learn to be more tolerant and understanding of the behavior of others if you ever expect to get along in a society full of ...well, rapists, murderers, drug addict, drunks, whores, bullies, jihadists, fanatical Muslims, ..., and other such fine examples of the human specie.

Well, geez, ....next thing ya' know, you're gonna want to censure even the fine behavior of rapists, murderers, drug addict, drunks, whores, bullies, jihadists, fanatical Muslims, ..., and other such fine examples of the human specie.

Orleander, you simply must learn to be more tolerant and understanding of others.

Baron Max

18. ### shorty_37Go! Canada Go!Registered Senior Member

Messages:
12,140
In some circumstances the last thing on my mind is fucking manners!

19. ### OrleanderOH JOY!!!!Valued Senior Member

Messages:
25,817

No I don't. They must be tolerant of me or else I'll tell. And then I'll cry. A lot! LOUDLY!!

20. ### shorty_37Go! Canada Go!Registered Senior Member

Messages:
12,140
oh no you're not a crybaby WUSS are you?:bugeye:

Messages:
10,848

Messages:
12,140
23. ### Baron MaxRegistered Senior Member

Messages:
23,053
Ooh, that's an organized crime term meaning "to be killed". "Hey, Joe, did ya' wax that bitch for us?" "Oh, yeah, boss, and I gutted her for ya', too!"

Baron Max