Why do we curse?

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

  1. Grantywanty Registered Senior Member

    No, it's more than that. It has become a real question. Yes, passing quickly it looks similar, but negative and positive and neutral responses have meaning related to emotional states. When it is not in passing, when we have a minute or more, it is the opening of a real honest expression of that state and from there perhaps analysis, shared mulling, suggestions, problem solving, support etc.

    I see cursing a potentially much more refined tool and not limited to the uses you are saying here. A very simple example: I come home from work. My wife asks me how the day was. I say 'Shitty' and coupled with my body language she knows: 1) I had a real bad day 2) I don't want to talk about it now. 3) Give me some space for a while.

    On another day I come home. I answer with the same word, but tone has a hint of a whine. My body language is more open. She knows: 1) I had a bad day. 2) I want to talk about it. 3) I want her to ask questions.

    I could even take the body language differences out because she can tell the difference from another room. (And I can in relation to her.)

    And 'shitty' 'it sucked' 'SOS' and other signifying short phrases convey different things, just like other words do.

    This is a simple example, but for me it points out that curses can be effective parts of speech (or writing).

    I disagree. We are addicted to word thinking and communication. To speak on topic to an animal aligns our tone of voice and body language in ways that can be picked up by animals. (I also had a dog that could recognize and react separately to about 1 hundred words, so he, at least, might also get a few direct linguistic clues). I am sure one could substitute other words - like praise the dog while expressing in content distaste for racism - but I think it would be a struggle. I see the use of words in this context as a way of deepening the expressive non-word communication from our side.

    I agree. They are simply doing out loud what we all do mentally and/or subvocally.

    Since people do not seem to mind my hearing them talking into their cellphones about their bosses, their boy/girlfriends, their herpes, their..... and this list goes on, I have started to think of the situation as: the phone is an excuse to share with the community. It is the person on the other end of the line who is extraneous.
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  3. whitewolf asleep under the juniper bush Registered Senior Member

    I glanced through this thread and it appears you've all missed another aspect of cursing. Curses are used in humorous speech as well. We curse not only in distress, but in a good mood also.

    I have always said this and I'll repeat again. In order to fully master a language, in order to be in charge of the words you say and not the other way around, you must be eloquent in all forms of language: literary, speech, and cursing.
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  5. Grantywanty Registered Senior Member

    , body language, thinking sounds (um, er...), and more...
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  7. peta9 Registered Senior Member

    I used to speak so nicely and politely to everyone and nobody LISTENED. I, ripley's believe it or not, never cursed and was puzzled why others do it. Even if I had a valid point or something to offer because I wasn't physically animated or posturing I was discounted or ignored. Strange but true. Then I realized in this egoist society the best way to be heard was to get thier attention through it. Because everyone has it and a few curse words here and there will get thier attention quick, they may not have been interested in what you had to say but they will end up hearing you just because they are listening out for a dent in thier 'ego' and what makes them 'stupid' as you claimed.

    I remember that line in Star Trek where Shatner says something to the tune of "It's a primitive and paranoid society. If you don't curse every other word, they just don't listen to you here." I guess he was onto something. I guess I learned it from dealing with people on a day to day basis. I should work on my manners again though but it seems to hold true a lot of the times, it's just more effective when dealing with assholes as that's the only language they respect, aggressive. The problem is you can end up insulting or hurting the feelings of someone who didn't deserve it or wasn't trying to be deceptive. It's a bad habit I've got to break, I'm really not a mean person at heart.

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  8. Grantywanty Registered Senior Member

    I found your story interesting. I do wonder if perhaps when you, as an individual curse, it allows you to express yourself more forcefully. Not simply the word itself, but perhaps your feelings, which you normally ALSO restrain when communicating, are more likely to be expressed when you curse.

    I toss this theory out because, while I do curse, most of the time I don't have trouble getting someone to take me seriously. (this includes humourous use of curses in speech.) I tend not curse with people I don't know unless they've really crossed a line. I can remember of course switching to a pointed sentence with a curse when nothing was getting through, but this is rare.
  9. peta9 Registered Senior Member

    I've noticed at least in america, unless you are conversing within a most thoughtful and open-minded group, your kindness or politeness is often taken for weakness even in speech. When you are dealing with the general public, need to affect an action, or defend yourself you do have to put some force or seriousness into your speech. People tend to not to listen to what you say as much as read your body language and presence and conclude your intent as serious or not. I've also noticed that larger males tend to not have this problem but for a female especially younger it is, the erroneous perception of pecking order and that the younger have less knowledge or insight. Hence, I think that was a way of compensating not for my lack but for society's perceptions.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2007
  10. Grantywanty Registered Senior Member

    All well said.

    But then aren't you wandering into other areas of being judged being a young female who curses. I know a lot of americans - it sounds like there are quite a number in this thread - who would disregard what you say BECAUSE you cursed. And then there are others who would not think it was OK for a woman to curse while accepting it in a man.

    I am not trying to say your interpretation for why this works is not true, but I still get the impression that it is not simply the use of curse words that is getting you listened to now. That certain individuals might now listen, sure. But that in general this strategy is working makes me think other things are going on as well, because curses alone as an addition, especially for a woman, would seem to open some ears but close at least as many.
  11. allisone417 i'll be in my room Registered Senior Member

    I'm guessing its because we're denied outlets for anger (such as hurting other people or bears or dinosaurs), so we use language, the most powerful outlet we have made for ourselves.
  12. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    Curses are usually associated with breaking taboos.
    Taboos are usually to do with things that:

    1. Make us like animals:
    Sex, excreta, food, death etc.

    2. Make us different from animals:
    Clothes, Religion etc.

    Humans don't want to be like animals.

    Breaking the taboo gives a huge sense of relief, anaesthetising the pain for example, of banging your thumb with a hammer.

    I don't know if any psychologist has done experiments on it, but release of endorphins?

    It's a big strain trying not to be a beast.
    I'm not knocking it, it's everything we value as human beings.
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2007
  13. SagaciousMind Am User Registered Senior Member

    Quite right, quite right.
  14. nebel

    perhaps cursing has a religious background? it was assumed that big Brother in the sky would listen and carry out our commands/curses?--or:
    Cursing is the attempt of a weak mind to express itself with force?.
    In my case when working,-- an expression of extreme frustration, --shifting the blame onto others.
  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Praying releases endorphins, and so does being prayed for. I have no idea how cursing affects our emotional health.
  16. nebel

    it is thought that cursing releases tensions, repressed tensions judged to be bad for your health by some, and of course waiting for Big daddy in the sky to back your pronouncements can be hazardous to your final outcome too.
    Amar Nath Reu likes this.

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