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Off topic: Swearing
Thread poster: Stéphanie Denton
Stéphanie Denton  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:22
French to English
+ ...
Nov 21, 2011

Hi all

Interesting one here. I have been asked by my local BBC radio to give a talk on swearing tomorrow morning. This has all come about as a gentleman recently got an extra 5 years added to his sentence as he used the F word a lot whilst being cuffed by the police.

It would be really interesting to get people's opinions on swearing.

Here are a few questions I have:

- Is swearing too commonplace?
- Do you get offended by swearing (if you answer this, I am going to have to be cheeky and ask for your age!)?
- Do you swear yourselves? If so, is it an active part of your daily language?
- How offensive are swear words in your native tongue?
- How has swearing delevoped in your native tongue?
- Do you believe that the next generation are going to actively use swearing on a daily basis?

Anything else that you would like to add, please feel free!

Thanks

Stéphanie


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Noni Gilbert
Spain
Local time: 15:22
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Depends how erudite you want the talk to be... Nov 21, 2011

...although I imagine they are just after well-told and researched anecdotes?

One thing you could refer to is the "fact" that however limited your knowledge of a foreign language is, you probably know a few swear words. It seems to be the first thing teenagers teach each other if they are on an exchange. And how many people have been caught out by trick "translations"? Being told that the Spanish word for "bread" is "co*ones" or similar....
On the other hand, while it is the vocabulary language learners are least likely to forget (ie learn quickest), actually using the words correctly is never that easy. Their grammar usage can be tricky (I'm sure there will be a PhD out there somewhere) and collocation is oh so important!

Editing to add a self-quote from a previous forum, on the grammar of swearing...

"F*ckity (with an e) is a multi-function word, somewhat akin to f*cking (with a u) - although f*cking (with an e) does exist, and can be an adjective ("one of those feckity 70s picture windows" - clearly an opinion adjective, hence its position at the head of the adjectives), a noun ("does anyone know what the f*ckity has happened here?") and, most commonly, an adverb, as in "f*ckity f*ck", in which case it is an intensifier."





[Edited at 2011-11-21 16:12 GMT]


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Nicola Beedle  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:22
Spanish to English
+ ...
Swearing Nov 21, 2011

OK here I go, I hope my answers are useful to you.

Is swearing too commonplace?
I think swearing is too common place. I understand that it is used as an expression of outrage and anger but sometimes it is used just for the sake of it. Some people swear just because they think it's "cool" in my humble opinion anyway.

- Do you get offended by swearing (if you answer this, I am going to have to be cheeky and ask for your age!)? I'm not usually offended by swearing unless it is directed at me. I can find it annoying if people swear on television programmes or just for the sake of it.

- Do you swear yourselves? If so, is it an active part of your daily language? I try not to swear but the occassional outbust of anger (and with it swear words) has left my mouth on more than one occassion.

- How offensive are swear words in your native tongue? In English, I think it depends on the swear word and what you class as a swear word. Some are more offensive than others.

However, I also live in Spain and people here tend to use certain swear words all the time. However, these are not meant in an offensive way, they say them as outbursts or simply as a turn of speech.

- How has swearing delevoped in your native tongue? When I was at school (not long ago) it was deemed "cool" to swear and to be honest I think it stems from there. However, let's no overlook the influence that the many comedians on TV have.

- Do you believe that the next generation are going to actively use swearing on a daily basis?

I really don't know about this one. Maybe, it depends on what they are exposed to.

Hope this helps!


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patyjs  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 08:22
Spanish to English
+ ...
An extra five years! Nov 21, 2011

That makes me want to use the F-word! Surely, there must be more to it than that.

Anyway, I think it depends on the context and company you're in. I'm 57 and use the F-word quite a lot when I'm driving (no surprise there) and sometimes around the house but hardly ever in anger or directed at anyone specifically; if I stub my toe, for example. However, I do find it offensive when other people use it in my company, especially men. Somehow it's different when I'm in only female company.

I almost never swear in Spanish although I've lived in Mexico for over 20 years and speak Spanish most of my waking life. I regularly go to regional shows in "family" restaurants during which the banter is liberally sprinkled with swearing and such which, if it were in English, I know I would find so offensive I would probably not go at all.

I also think there's a difference in the "feel" of swearing and insults between English and Spanish. The F-word has become so commonplace that unless it's preceded by "you are" it probably isn't that offensive to most people. I'm glad it hasn't become the norm on TV, though, like it has in the movies. Spanish swearing feels much more personal and offensive even when it's not actually directed at anyone in particular, but perhaps tone of voice also has a lot to do with it.

If I were ever to get arrested I'm pretty sure I'd be using the F-word quite a lot, too!

Interesting.


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Jenny Forbes  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:22
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Anecdote Nov 21, 2011

OK, Stéphanie, here's an anecdote for you (true story):
I'm not in the first flush of youth, but am no prude and have been known to swear vigorously myself when provoked.
At the moment I'm having repairs done to my roof. This necessitated the erection of scaffolding in front of my office window while I was working. The scaffolders were unbelievably noisy and seemed to know only one word - beginning with f. It was actually the noise rather than the f-word that was getting to me. I rapped on the glass and involuntarily shouted "Watch your f****ing language, young man!"
That stopped them.
To answer your questions, yes, swearing is commonplace everywhere in the UK now. Even primary school children use the f word all the time. I mind this only because it debases the currency. You've got nothing left to say when you're really angry.
Best wishes,
Jenny
P.S. Maybe I was spurred on by the recent magnificent gesture of stately Lady Trumpington in the House of Lords - she's even older than me. If you haven't seen it, have a look on You Tube.


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Kate Chaffer
Italy
Local time: 15:22
Italian to English
Not exactly 5 years! Nov 21, 2011

patyjs wrote:

That makes me want to use the F-word! Surely, there must be more to it than that.



Here's an article about what Stéphanie is talking about. It was a £50 fine that has been overturned on appeal, not an extra 5 years in prison!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/8902770/Swearing-at-police-is-not-a-crime-judge-rules.html


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Stéphanie Denton  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:22
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Great answers guys Nov 21, 2011

Thanks a lot. I'm 24 and swearing is more a part of my day-to-day language than I originally thought. I realised this when I had my daughter, and had to start replacing f***ing with fudging. It makes my partner and I giggle.

I agree that it really does depend on tone. I get offended is someone swears directly at me, and I sometimes cringe when watching comedians, it really takes some of the humour out of it. I particularly hate the term: see you next Tuesday.

I also agree that some people do it because they think it is cool. I spoke to my Grandma about this and it was the first thing that she said.

In terms of languages, "Merde" in French isn't really seen as a swear word, as it is so commonly used. I'd be much happier saying "Merde" in front of my parents than "S***", I also tend to say "Excuse my French" when around "older" people.

I'm dead nervous about this so thanks for your comments.


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Stéphanie Denton  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:22
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Ah Nov 21, 2011

Kate Chaffer wrote:

patyjs wrote:

That makes me want to use the F-word! Surely, there must be more to it than that.



Here's an article about what Stéphanie is talking about. It was a £50 fine that has been overturned on appeal, not an extra 5 years in prison!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/8902770/Swearing-at-police-is-not-a-crime-judge-rules.html


Thats' not what the Radio lady told me. However, this has caused a lot of controversy.


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Bernard Lieber  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:22
English to French
+ ...
Noam Chomsky Nov 21, 2011

If you want to look more into it Noam Chomsky has written a book about aphasia and it seems that people suffering from aphasia mainly remember swear words!?

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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:22
Hebrew to English
If you can get hold of it.. Nov 21, 2011

Stephen Fry's "Planet Word" programme series had an episode dedicated just to swearing in language.

I can't remember the ins and outs of it, but it was interesting and it looked at other languages too.

Try getting it on iplayer (if you have it) or somewhere else online. Definitely worth watching.


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Kirsten Bodart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:22
Dutch to English
+ ...
Ooh, I have had a lot of arguments with my husband about this Nov 21, 2011

I namely find it a nuisance, all that pussy-footing. I am 29, by the way.

You may be interested to know that today there was an article in the Daily Mail that claimed that a judge had acquitted one such person who they only charged with profanity for swearing as he was being searched for canabis he did not have, on the basis that it was too commonplace to be truly offensive. The man did not swear at the police officer (i.e. you f*cker'), but just as a way to vent this rage.

Anyway, as to your questions:

Is swearing too commonplace?

I think swearing is commonplace and is there in all languages. I have never known a society where it is so offensive, though. Swear words are there to vent your rage and negative feelings, they should not be offensive.

- Do you get offended by swearing (if you answer this, I am going to have to be cheeky and ask for your age!)?

No, the only time I do get offended is if people are not able to speak without swearing, but that rarely happens. If people can't say a sentence without throwing in a swear word then, ok, offensive, well not actually but rather disturbing. It distracts from what the person is trying to say. Other than that, not offensive. Why should it be?

- Do you swear yourselves? If so, is it an active part of your daily language?

I swear when I feel I should. I have missed the bus, big fat sh*t. What is wrong with that? If I don't maybe I will get aggressive to someone else, is that better? I do have to mind if I go to the UK that I don't do it too loudly, although I make a point of modestly doing it. I can always claim I am a poor foreigner who doesn't know.

- How offensive are swear words in your native tongue?

They are not really offensive. Apart from Godverdomme, but that is because people think you're cursing God where you are actually asking God to curse you, so actually, no not offensive. Nor in German apparently. Although you should not swear in the board room of course, but I suppose no-one expects the Queen to swear when she is giving a speech?

- Do you believe that the next generation are going to actively use swearing on a daily basis?

They do already. Or at least the greatest part of society does. The rumour is that Princess Margaret used to swear. If she can, I can too.

By some people 'bloody' is even classed as swearing. I find that so sad! What is offensive about that word?

I find the fact that you can get arrested for swearing totally out of proportion and frankly, according to the law, I could have been arrested already a million times for doing that in public in the UK. Someone is bound to be offended. It is not my problem they are closed-minded, it is their own. The offensive swearing is a middle class thing anyway as the higher and lower classes do not mind and have always sworn (one on TV once 5 times in one sentence in a public school accent in a documentary on John Preston). Why should we confirm to one class in society?

I can get worked up about that.


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Mailand  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:22
Italian to German
+ ...
Are comments from non-native English speakers interesting? Nov 21, 2011

Hello Stephanie!

I am a German living in Italy using English (as a professional as well as a "private" person) very often and like the colleagues who already posted comments, I feel different about swearing and swear words in the different languages I use.

Personally I swear little in all the languages I use, probably a question of upbringing (I am 45 years old, by the way). But I do in case of "necessity" ... when stubbing a toe or when I have to watch Berlusconi on TV ....

Is swearing too commonplace?
It´s not so bad in my immediate surroundings, but I do have to tell my husband (Italian) to mind his tongue when he´s driving.

- Do you get offended by swearing?
Depends on the words used and on the occasion. The "softest" of all (Sorry: Scheiße, merda, shit) does not bother me at all, it sounds so inocuous today, but I hate it when words are used on purpose in order to offend people (and I am not talking about "idiot" drivers ....).

Do you swear yourselves? If so, is it an active part of your daily language
Not often

How offensive are swear words in your native tongue?
In German many swear words (of the "older" kind anyway) refer to animals (Schwein, Sau, Hund) and are really not very offensive, but it depends on tone and context. In Italian they are very often sex-related, some are quite offensive, others have become so common place as not even to be seen as such any more (the "c" word - Italian speakers will know what I am talking about).

How has swearing delevoped in your native tongue?
Young Germans have incorporated a lot of English swear words into their language and I guess very often do not even really know what they are saying ...

Do you believe that the next generation are going to actively use swearing on a daily basis
Next generation ... are going to ... - I guess they already do!


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:22
French to English
+ ...
Linguistic research actually exists on this... Nov 21, 2011

You might be interested to look at talks by Stephen Pinker who talks about (and I believe has researched) the way in which swear words might be 'emotionally special' words http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BcdY_wSklo

The key point, which could feed into the legal arguments around swearing, is that there's a theory that on some level speakers "cannot help" but to process swearwords-- and evoke associated negative connotations-- when they see/hear them.

[Edited at 2011-11-21 17:15 GMT]


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David Wright  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 15:22
German to English
+ ...
Saw "The Guard" Nov 21, 2011

on >Saturday and the effing and blinding were certainly a contribution to the humour.

See also
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAg0lUYHHFc

watching which my mother, who is 92 and seriously objects to swearing (very Catholic of the wash your mouth out with soap and water variety), laughed all the way through.

My point: whether swearing is acceptable depends hugely on teh context (and I don't really regard word SHIT as swearing - mind you, I'm only 62)


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Steve Booth  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:22
Member (2007)
English to Arabic
+ ...
hmm Nov 21, 2011

I come from a background where swearing is common place and i find that i swear a lot probably more than is necessary although I am perfectly capable of carrying on a conversation without any expletives.

If someone says they are offended then i will not swear or if it is just a certain word they don't like then will steer clear of that word.

I once worked with an American who was amazed at the level of swearing amongst the british community he said that he thought he swore a lot but us brits had made an art form out of it and taken it to the next level.

Swearing doesn't offend me I don't like insults being used that mock certain people for instance those with learning difficulties downs syndrome, cerebral palsy etc as i think there is no need for that (even when the person being insulted doesn't have LDs) as anyone can have relatives etc and be offended by that

You can call me any name you want apart from those related to LDs and it would be water off a ducks back
anyway to asnwer your questions

Is swearing too commonplace?
it is certainly very commonplace and certain people can't speak without swearing and others do it without realising but I would say only in certain environemnts is it used too often

- Do you get offended by swearing (if you answer this, I am going to have to be cheeky and ask for your age!)?
no see above

- Do you swear yourselves? If so, is it an active part of your daily language?
yes especially when driving or at work incidentally when i was playing football i swore quite a bit but when i was a referee i never swore at all

- How offensive are swear words in your native tongue?
varying degrees really depending on the ear that is listening to them

- How has swearing delevoped in your native tongue?
see above it can be very effective and it is almost an art form
- Do you believe that the next generation are going to actively use swearing on a daily basis?

they already do don't they


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