Language and Profanity

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Language is an essential component in all cultures around the globe. The parties concerned must be familiar with the language of use in order to communicate effectively. As a result, certain words are considered taboo or violent, but they are widely used. Strong vocabulary or profanity may be used for a number of purposes. It may be used idiomatically, descriptively, abusively, or cathartically, for example (Johnson, 436). The paper would explore that various kinds of individuals or organizations use profanity in this way.

It is necessary to remember that swearwords are not needed to express frustration or violence. For instance, in the Philippines, there is a language called the Bikol, and it has different vocabularies to show anger. The language has many words that refer to the same thing and still indicate that one is angry. Also, in Japan, you can mistakenly insult a person by pronouncing the word ‘you’ incorrectly, because it conveys different meanings in Japanese. Thus, different cultures have words that are used for profanity, but they still have other meanings. In Luganda, a language used in Uganda, one can make a word offensive by just changing its noun class prefix- from a class of persons to a class referring to another kind of object (Herring and John, 439). For example, instead of directly telling someone that he/she is ugly, one might just say, “Michael is an alien”

Culture is paramount in shaping what words are used in profanity. Depending on the culture that one is in, there can be words that are considered too obscene while others are comfortably used in public. For instance, people mostly use the F-word cathartically. In the west, most people use the cuss word while stressed or under pressure and can provide emotional relief. Additionally, the F-word is used publicly to express happiness, amusement, or as a social commentary. An example is how a person may publicly exclaim, “The concert was fucking amazing”, to emphasize on how amazed they were by the concert.

In many cultures, sex is considered a dominant act against another person, which usually a man dominating a woman. As such, different words have been coined to refer to sex. For instance, in the American culture, teenagers use the word ‘shag’ to mean having sexual intercourse (Johnson, 436). However, the F-word too is used to refer to sex, and it is also an offensive word. As a result, it is considered quite vulgar to speak about sex while using the F-word, and that is why other words have been formed to help people have a comfortable discussion concerning such sensitive topics.

The gender or the sexual orientation of a person plays a significant role in the use of profanity. For instance, over the years the word ‘bitch’ has been used to insult women but at times, women use it casually among each other, and it is not considered insulting in such cases (Herring and John, 439). As such, the word ‘bitch’ can be used to abuse women, and it can also be used by women amongst themselves to portray a strong friendship and closeness. Additionally, the sexual orientation of a person also determines why people use profanity while referring to them. For instance, common obscene words used to refer to gay people include ‘faggot’ or simply ‘fag.'

Among Christians, it is considered a taboo to swear using God’s name. The bible clearly states in the Ten Commandments “Thou shalt not use the name of God in vain.” As such, Christians rarely use the name of God while trying to prove something. However, they use God’s name at times to emphasize on how truthful they are (Volokh, 437). For instance, a Christian may be lying to someone else, and may use the name of God to show that he/she is truthful in an attempt to make the other person believe him or her. Furthermore, it is important to note that different people have different approaches towards swear words. For example, the USA has recently liberalized its censorship over the years yet the UK has always had some rather relaxed policies regarding profanity. This is because the British culture is openly accepting languages that are considered inappropriate and makes them a social norm attributed to the natural behavior of human beings. On the other hand, the USA is more stringent to profanity.


Profanity is an issue in most societies because it contributes to how a community stays peaceful or gets into conflict. As such, it is important to note that profanity is influenced by the culture of the people. The different genders, languages, and cultures in societies give shape to what the people perceive as obscene or vulgar language (Johnson, 436). Additionally, through the ethical boundaries of culture, the people decide what is wrong and what is right to say while addressing certain things or people in certain situations or places.

Annotated Bibliography

Johnson, Danette Ifert. "Swearing by peers in the work setting: Expectancy violation valence, perceptions of the message, and perceptions of speaker." Communication Studies 63.2 (2012): 136-151.

Danette Iffert Johnson is a professor at the Ithaca College in the Department of Communication Studies, which is based in New York. She collected data for this article under the auspices of the Time Shared Experiments in the social science. In this book, she speaks of how profanity arises among teenagers and how it is used in certain situations. The author illustrates how the F-word is used for different purposes by teens in America. The book mentioned above is relevant to this research because it shows how different words have been coined to enhance vulgar language. The information on this book is essential to the research of how words used in profanity are made.

Herring, Susan C., and John C. Paolillo. "Gender and genre variation in weblogs." Journal of Sociolinguistics 10.4 (2006): 439-459.

Susan Herring is an American communication scholar and linguist who researches on the difference between genders in the new norms associated with language, communication, and behavior on many social network platforms. She holds a PhD in Information Science and Linguistics and she is a professor at Indiana University Bloomington. John Paolillo is a professor of Informatics and Linguistics at the same university. This book provides information on how different genders view and accept profanity. The writing techniques of this book are seamless, and it provides critical information on how words that are considered taboos are well received among people of the same gender. The relevance of this book lies on how it gives insight into specific words that are quite insulting and how they positively accepted by different genders. The research on profanity will use the information on this book to analyze how the different genders perceive language.

Volokh, Eugene. "The Trouble with Public Discourse as a Limitation on Free Speech Rights." Va. L. Rev. 97 (2011): 567.

Eugene Volokh is an American law professor at the UCLA School of law. In this book, the author has been able to portray a clear comprehension of situations where profanity is allowed. However, a reader may find this book biased because it only gives an account of where profanity can be used but does not mention the situations the contemporary society find profanity to be a taboo. The information covered in this book is useful to the research on profanity, especially where it gives insight into what words Christians perceive to be taboo or offensive. This is a credible source for the present research on profanity since it explains where and why certain words or language can be used.

October 25, 2022




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