Arts, Culture & Media

How to swear in every language

To me cursing represents freedom and basic human impulses. (Is it so harmless to say the title of your book?) It's a Spanish curse which is more innocent than something that would lead to a bar fight. I think half the fun of the insult is the sound of the words rather than the actual meaning. I think cursing is almost like a form of poetry which is available to everyone. (Could you color a map according to the subject matter of put downs?) Curses are very regional. There's a belt across Europe where the buttocks is the preference, but farther east it's much more sexual and sexual organs. And then in the north they still have a number of religious swear words, or even forms of diseases. And in Quebec there are still many religious curse words. (Why would �chalice� or �tabernacle� be a swear word?) Because in a strongly Catholic environment, those are powerful words. Cursing is all about emotional force and religion used to be the main source of that in daily life. In societies that went away from religion early, to say �Damn you� doesn't really carry that weight anymore. (Do new curses develop after geo-political events such as Communism petering out in a place like China?) To some extent, but it's more with words coming in and out of fashion. (Is there a language that doesn't have cursing?) Not that I know of. A basic thing in language is cursing and that's because cursing is anti-authoritarian. The powers that be don't want you to curse in the same way they don't want you to protest. Russia has the most vivid and wide ranging and powerful vocabulary of curses. But if you read their literature you'd never know because they're never printed. (How does a swear word become a marquee swear word?) nobody knows. Swear words are held in a different part of the brain that vocabulary, and people who can't speak or say normal sentences can still curse. It arises in the most primitive part of the brain and so we need to fill that space.

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