The Power Of Swearing

agentbuffy

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Not sure if this is the right place, but if it isn't I'm sure the Mods will do the needful. Anyhoo ...

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed the amazing power of proper swearing? You know how it is, your trying to do something - undo a stubborn bolt, open a jar, fit some shelving, start the car - and it just won't happen. Give it a good old volley (the filthier the better) and - hey presto - it works. It has to be done with conviction, though, a muttered curse does nothing.

Anyway, to get a Fortean view on this, I am of the conviction that what are now classified as swear words (often, especially in North America I believe, also as curse words) are the remnants of magical incantations. They certainly seem to have that effect, when enough will power is put into them. Again, perhaps the taboo nature of cussing up a storm is a palimpsest of the tribal shaman being somewhat otherworldly, and not to be associated with by the right and proper.

Alternatively, it could just be a psychological build up of frustration that puts that extra bit of energy into the job in hand, and happens to coincide with a healthy dose of sailor-talk. Anybody else have an opinion?
 

GNC

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No excuse for that kind of language...
 

JamesWhitehead

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If they are words of power then I used to know this little wizened Irish bloke who must have ruled the universe!

It wasn't the words he used or even their frequency - everyone in that place swore like proverbial troopers - but the feeling he gave to them. He, if anyone, should have tapped into their mystical power.

Did he?







(profanity coming . . . )










Did he feck! :shock:
 
A

Anonymous

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It also seems to help you feel a littlye better after you slam a finger in a door...
 

glamour_dust

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When I read the thread title I thought hopefully that it would be about using swear words to ward off the supernatural. There is the belief here that if you are visited by the spirit of a dead person, especially in a dream, swearing at it will chase it away. My mom claims that her poor dead father came to her in a dream and asked to see her infant baby, who was born a couple months after he had died. He seemed to want to take the child so in the dream she started cursing him. His eyes glowed red with rage she said, but he reluctantly backed off down the steps and out the door. That night the baby ran a high fever but recovered well enough by next day. Of course it could have been simply a dream and nothing more but who knows? No idea how you are suppoosed to make yourself curse at the spectre in the dream . I think I've heard of other times when you are supposed to curse spirits to drive them away but I cannot remember right now :?
 

RainyOcean

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I've found that getting angry at things seems to help, even if you don't use a swear/curse word. For example, my printer usually takes a while to work after clicking "print". I've always found that it starts to work right at the time that I start getting angry at it, but I don't recall ever cursing at it.
 

GNC

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I don't see why swear words should be so special, after all a well chosen, non-sweary phrase or two can make people angry, sad, laugh or carry out a whole range of tasks. Whether swearing works on inanimate objects I kind of doubt, although they certainly have an effect on people it's more the emotion behind the words that matters. Can objects tune in to emotions?
 

agentbuffy

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Perhaps it carries some elements of ritual magic. I'm no expert on this area, but I seem to remember reading somewhere that the items used in rituals aren't as vital as what those items actually mean to the invoker. Thus could it be that as I, like many people, have been brought up to believe that these words aren't to be bandied around willy-nilly, and therefore have some sort of intrinsic power. It would then be the 'faith', for want of a less resonant word, in the power of these words, whether they be sweary or not, that brings about the result.

Also, what glamour_dust posted could very easily fall under this same kind of occurence - you want something to happen/stop happening, swear fruitily, and then it's all apples.
 

Semyaz

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Personally, I would have agree that it is probably the relevance of the word/phrase/concept to the invoker combined with the strength of the emotion applied to the situation that causes, if any, the effect.

However, I do like the irony of the idea of swear/curse words, which so many of us are taught from very early on as being taboo, of being so useful!!
 

mossy_sloth

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For quite a good (but not too complicated) analysis of english swearing, read Ruth Wajnryb's Language Most Foul. It's very good and discusses the different reasons for which we swear, and the history of swearing in English.

There's also Why we curse: A Neuro-psycho-social theory of speech by Timothy Jay, which unfortunately I haven't managed to get my hands on yet.
 

uair01

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Shouting helps to increase or concentrate muscle power. All the shouting in martial arts really helps. When I practiced aikido we shouted a lot, but it didn't really matter what we shouted, mostly just "haaa" or counting in Japanese ...

So I think the power is more in the act of shouting *anything* loudly, than in the cursing. Or simpy exhaling with force helps when opening a stubborn new jar of marmelade.
 

ElishevaBarsabe

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uair01 said:
Shouting helps to increase or concentrate muscle power.

Or simpy exhaling with force helps when opening a stubborn new jar of marmelade.

That sounds about right to me, although how would shouting influence the speed of RainyOcean's printer?
 

rynner2

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How swearing got less taboo
From Strictly Come Dancing to football, there is a class of cursers who literally don't know they are swearing
Mark Lawson guardian.co.uk, Monday 21 November 2011 21.30 GMT

If you are one of the 600 people who recently complained about the use of the word "sod" on Strictly Come Dancing, you might be advised not to read the next sentence of this article. If you are the judge who has just ruled that the word "fuck" is not necessarily offensive when spoken in public, you may find the previous sentence inexplicable.

The gulf in opinion on acceptable language is starkly illustrated by the proximity of these cases. It's tempting to see a division – of the kind beloved by the popular press – between ordinary decent people and an out-of-touch legal elite. But both linguistic positions turn more subtly on the question of the intent with which a word was used and the extent to which it retains power to offend.

The great speech policeman Professor David Crystal points out, in his recent book The Story of English in 100 Words, that taboo usages have generally travelled from earlier acceptability. One of his century of expressions is the most generally offensive female genital expletive, and yet it appeared in early gynaecology textbooks and even street names.

But when Len Goodman called fellow hoofing judge Craig Revel Horwood "a silly little sod", he used a word that has made the reverse journey from dark to light. In its probably 19th-century origins, the insult imputed sodomy until, along with "bugger", becoming a mild and even semi-affectionate rebuke. In online discussions some objecting viewers suspected an anti-camp or homophobic subtext in the TV exchange. I doubt that Goodman intended this, but such judgments are subtle; if he had called the professedly bisexual Revel Horwood a "silly bugger", he would almost certainly have his next few Saturday evenings free because that word retains more of its pejorative power.

On television there would be no doubt about the offensiveness of the words that 20-year-old Denzel Harvey used to the cops searching him. F-words are always bleeped (and pixelated, thus protecting lip-readers as well) before or close to the 9pm watershed, and subjected to advance warnings in other slots. The obscene message the singer Rihanna childishly chose to wear on her shoes on The X Factor this weekend provoked fury from the Sun, on behalf of the studio audience, but was not easily seen on TV. So those who welcome these restrictions may consider Mr Justice Bean – who ruled that Harvey's cursing was not a public order offence – a silly little sod. "Inspector Gadget", the blogging name of a senior police officer, has already warned of a verbal free-for-all in public places.

The appeal judge's argument, though, is sophisticated and challenging. The concept of "swearing" or "bad language" depends on the idea that certain expressions are irregular or taboo. But modern society frequently seems afflicted with Tourette's. On trains and buses it is now standard to hear, on one end of a mobile phone, conversation of a sort once tolerated only during gangland poker games and Radio 3 plays.

In this context, the judge ruled, it is impossible to argue that public order has been offended by the speaking of such terms on an east London street. (The verdict might have been different if Harvey had let rip in a church or school.)

The biggest problem is that the history of swearing has generally involved the user – novelist, playwright, comedian, student – deliberately and knowingly using taboo terms for dramatic, libertarian or insulting reasons. Now, however, there is a class of cursers who literally don't know they're doing it.

Recently, in a move that still surprises me in retrospect with its potential riskiness, I asked a supporter at a League Two football match if he might consider minding his language. The bloke had been vocal throughout the first half, hollering the C-word and F-word in various combinations at the referee, assistant referee and the home team.

Although all 14 men had more than earned this derision by their performance, I was present at the game with a 12-year-old and there were other much younger children in what is commonly considered the family section of the ground. At half-time, in the queue for the loo, I mentioned to the man that, while there was widespread support for his views, it might be better for the children to hear a bit less swearing. His non-ironic response: "Swearing? I ain't been [sexual adjective] swearing, you [genital noun]." :shock:

Had I been enough of a silly sod to call a copper, I imagine that, eventually, the court of appeal would have supported the supporter's view that he wasn't swearing. And, technically, he wasn't. Truly taboo terms – used by racists, for example – depend on speaker and hearer knowing a bomb is being exploded.

But neither the Strictly judge nor the youth judged unstrictly by the appeal court thought they were saying anything much. To which those raised in cleaner-speaking ages can only sigh and think: "Well, [insert preferred cuss word] me."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree ... less-taboo
 

jeff544

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My late mother in law bought fully and lavishly in to the power of swear words :lol: She was the first lady I ever heard use language like that and I still found it slightly amusing 30 years later. And my kids never picked it up off her, they just knew that was the way Nanny talked.

Back in the summer I am abolutely sure I heard Simon Mayo on the drive time show on radio 2 use the eff word. It was a Friday evening. I just could not believe it and stared at the car radio, then I convinced myself I had mis heard him. :?
 

Mal_Adjusted

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Stephen Fry's series on language (excellent if didn't see it - excellent if you did) had an entire episode on swearing. In one part had Brian Blessed and Fry testing theory that swearing helps deal with pain. Apparently it does but only if you're a habitual swearer, in which case the effect is reversed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dBkptLQOwA

def NSFW
 

Spudrick68

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Swearing can be remarkably effective when it is used by someone whgo doesn't normally swear. But I hate it when people use swear words as punctuation marks in their speech.
 

BlackPeter

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Good God!! Just swore at the cat because it was sharpening its claws on a valuable table and... IT EXPLODED!!
 

ramonmercado

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BlackPeter said:
Good God!! Just swore at the cat because it was sharpening its claws on a valuable table and... IT EXPLODED!!

Tble or cat exploded?
 

EnolaGaia

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Here's an interview with the author of a recent book on swearing, who claims the practice has multiple positive effects ...

Swearing Is Good For You—And Chimps Do It, Too
Swearing is usually regarded as simply lazy language or an abusive lapse in civility. But as Emma Byrne shows in her book, Swearing Is Good for You: The Amazing Science of Bad Language, new research reveals that profanity has many positive virtues, from promoting trust and teamwork in the office to increasing our tolerance to pain. ...

FULL STORY: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/01/science-swearing-profanity-curse-emma-byrne/
 

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EnolaGaia

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EG - do you submit your Fortean/Odd reports to the FT magazine? If not you could send them to:
Paul Sieveking [email protected]

No ... I hardly have time to post the ones I find that seem to fit into extant FTMB threads. This could change in the coming months / year ...

I was under the impression FTMB was at least occasionally monitored by FT staffers for possible items of interest ...
 

ramonmercado

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No ... I hardly have time to post the ones I find that seem to fit into extant FTMB threads. This could change in the coming months / year ...

I was under the impression FTMB was at least occasionally monitored by FT staffers for possible items of interest ...

Probably not often enough.

Even just c&p what you post here into an email.
 

James_H

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I think OP is on to something with this line of thought. After all, why are they called 'curses', 'oaths' and 'swearing'? I think there has to be some older association between taboo words and the idea that they hold some sort of power.

Another example would be religious swearing. (Different languages have a different hierarchy of which kind of swearing is most powerful: for example in English, religious swearing is the mildest—'damn', 'oh jesus', etc, whereas sexual swearing is the strongest. In other languages, religious swearing may be extremely taboo—note also how the French word that translates directly to 'cunt', 'con' is very mild and just kind of means 'idiot'). If you say 'oh God' in a trivial context you are 'taking the Lord's name in vain' — the implication perhaps being that saying 'oh God' constitutes a kind of invocation of God.
 

JamesWhitehead

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I think there was a distinction between solemn or proper oaths and oaths "taken in vain" which were casual, unauthorized calls upon God's name.

Some say that 'bloody' was originally a euphemistic form of 'By Our Lady.' I suspect there are a lot of false etymologies in the world of curses though. :mute:
 

Spudrick68

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I think that there is a difference between swearing for a reason and swearing as punctuation in a sentence. The latter is tedious and does suggest a lack of vocabulary. But sometimes it is necessary and I've often wondered if it does act as some form of pain relief (as already stated). A friend recently had the lid of a heavy chest fall on her head when she was getting something out of it. She said she shouted "fucking ouchy" which perhaps lessened the pain.

And of course Billy Connolly always loved the word "fuck". He said that you never hear of "fuck off he hinted".
 

EnolaGaia

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One aspect of 'power' in swearing is the connoting of extreme emotion / reaction with analogously extreme choice of noun or phrase.

This latter extreme is usually invoked by using a term relating to the sacred or something similarly sensitive in the given social setting (e.g., sex, feces, bodily fluids).

This correlation of extreme reaction with extreme reference can be socially negative, but we can't seem to hold back from doing it when we (e.g.) mash the finger, stub the toe, etc.

It always struck me that the best, and most entertaining, evidence for this unavoidability lay in those expressions that clearly appear to start out as alluding to something 'holy' (in some sense) and veer off into a final phrase or phrasing that attempts to dull or diminish the social blowback.

As a kid, I wondered if Tom Terrific's geographically-extended exclamations were cunning allusions to such mid-stream self-corrections - e.g., 'CHEE-huahua Mexico, Manfred!' as a codified way to avoid the appearance (and accusation) of taking Jesus' name in vain.

I wonder if anyone's ever compiled a list of such veer-away exclamations ... :thought:
 

henry

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i personally find that judicious swearing adds colour and texture to most dialogue ... im no malcolm tucker but there are times when only a swear word will do ... its rather swearing-lite but crap remains a favourite exclamation
 
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