naughty words

Warning: If you are at all offended by harsh language, I suggest you not read this post and instead, swing by “I CAN HAS CHEESEBURGER?” and spend an hour with some cute little kitty cats.

Otherwise, read on and enjoy.

Well! Suck my cock and fuck off, ya cunt! According to “…and sometimes Y”, a program about words and their uses, on CBC radio this afternoon – that simple and rather fricative phrase is perhaps one of the most offensive in the entire English language.

Through the warnings about harsh language and cautionary speak, there were discussions about “bad words” and phrases that are most offensive to the sensitive and virgin ear. As a scholar of the English language, I find the cultural stigmas around, and the uses of certain words rather interesting. For instance, apparently Australians swear like sailors all the time, and are more open to “taboo” language than North Americans, or even Brits. This doesn’t surprise me a great deal, as Australia was largely settled by British prisoners and people who escaped to find new promise in a new land. Since my cousin’s husband is good friends with a prominent Aussie, I asked him whether the assertion that Aussies have foul mouths was true. His reply confirmed that it was indeed true, and that he had been witness to it. But, what words do people (Aussies, Brits, Canadians and Americans alike) see as “bad” or “taboo” words? I think some of you might be surprised to hear the answers to that question.

Hell came up a few times, suck, frig, damn, and lots of other words that I would certainly not consider to be offensive to my ear. Though my ear is certainly not a virgin, these words just don’t pack enough punch to run with the same crowd as the infamous F word. So, I started to think about the reasons why certain words are more offensive than others.

Of course, the definition – whether it be the official one, or the implied, pop culture definition – plays a big part in how offensive a word is. A good example of this is: shit. Shit is a word that references excrement, human or otherwise; we all know how terrible it smells, looks, and some of us may even know how it tastes, but there is perhaps nothing worse that can be produced by the human body (at least, nothing that we talk about as often). Shit, in terms of: “This is a piece of shit!” is something that’s abhorrently bad, or truly disappointing. There are many things that can be called shit, and many forms of, and degrees to which this shit can exist. But really, because of the physical form that shit takes and its offensiveness to the eye, it is an offensive concept, which makes it a truly offensive word.

Beside the definition of a word, the sound of the word, the letters from which it is compiled, make certain words sound more offensive to the ear. A great example of this is: suck. The definition of suck, as listed in the dictionary is: a transitive verb meaning to draw into the mouth. Now, there are lots of things that we can draw into our mouths, but our sex-obsessed minds drive us to think, almost automatically, of acts of a sexual nature. This is all well and fine, but there is nothing offensive about the concept of sucking. The word itself is made to be offensive firstly by the connotation it is given with regard to the act of fellatio, and secondly by the quick and hard sound that it presents upon delivery.

This brings about the most important aspect of the reason why some words are more offensive than others. Some words have their disconcertingly disgusting definitions, some have their cultural definitions, but one thing that most all offensive words have in common is that they sound harsh and unpleasant to the ear. Most of the words that I came up with, just on a random list of “cuss” words, either had hard c or k sounds or t sounds. Shit, suck, cock, dick, cunt, prick, and fuck. The list is likely longer, but no one can deny that, at least in North America, those are staples in the continental diet of “taboo” language. The expediency and jarring sound of these words makes them easy to shout out in frustration, “Shit!”, and easily draws attention to the speaker. It’s what makes saying, “You cock-sucking, mother fucking cunt!” sound more offensive than, “Damn you to Hell, you insignificant knob”.

And so ends my time musing on the offensiveness of words in the English language. What do you think? I’d love to know what you find offensive, and why. Maybe it will spark me to spend my spare time writing another fun and interesting blog entry. Go mad.

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