What’s in a swear word? 29



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Used properly, swearing is a valuable asset in a very wide range of applications, it’s a pressure release valve, for such times as the moment you accidentally hit your thumb with a hammer, causing you to mutter or yell “f**k”, depending on how hard you hit yourself; it provides emphasis to a point being made in an argument and it can often be used to create a handy insult. The origins of that particular word are uncertain, but research shows it to most likely come from the middle Dutch of 1495 – 1505, where the word ‘fokken’ appears, meaning ‘to thrust’. In Sweden the word ‘Focka’ has much the same meaning. Swearing, and the word I refer to in particular, is often used by a certain group of people much too freely, with various other swear words appearing too, as often as three or four times in a single sentence, in fact, every sentence!

Some famous old swear words can barely be cast as such now, due to overuse over a long period of time. Good cases in point are ‘bloody’, ‘bugger’, ‘damn’, ‘shit’ and ‘blimey’. I have even heard quite genteel ladies using words such as these, in moments of stress!

Many of the swear words we use are actually derived from old oaths of a religious nature. ‘Blimey’ started out as a much more powerful ‘May God blind me’, while ‘bloody’ comes from ‘By the blood of Christ’ and ‘Damn’ means ‘God damn you’. The swear word ‘Christ’ is one that has remained unchanged over the centuries, though there is also at least one derivative to this, when we say ‘Cripes’. The reason for the changes appears to be the fact that the church considered such oaths to be blasphemous, so people employed the alternatives so as not to fall foul of an irate vicar!

Another group of swear words falls under the general heading of ‘body parts’ and bodily actions. ‘Shit’ is one such word, as is ‘bugger’, ‘balls’, ‘bollucks’ and ‘bum’, all fairly light hearted in their meanings, though some are much more serious and offensive, words I don’t care to write down here at all!

Swear words appear in pretty well every language in the world, so it’s obvious that they play quite an important part in the social structure of all races. As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, their creation was and is to provide a safety valve in moments of stress; pain and just plain old anger. Everyone, in all walks of life makes use of them at some time, often very volubly, occasionally silently – I’ve even heard one or two gentlemen of the church let go with a chain of well-chosen epithets, usually due more to frustration in their cases, but still just as effective.

All in all, although there are a few words which are definitely taboo, I see no harm in these other words, along the lines of those mentioned above, being used, in public or in private, provided they are not used too often, so that they lose their potency and merely become another useless addition to a sentence! There are many of them to be sure, I’ve only scraped the thin top layer here, merely to illustrate what I was writing but the list could be almost infinite.

I’m sure all of you readers, depending on what part of the world you come from and your social background, will know some wonderful words, which the rest of us may never have heard, but dare you pass them on to the rest of us, as a useful addition to our own lexicon?

I’ll be damned if I know!

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Brian Lee

  1. interesting that one of the worst swear words comes from a derivative of Dutch. My husband live there for 6 months and the worst swear word was to call someone a ‘cheesehead’. I’ve noticed on visits that they have picked up on the english swear words now.

    3 REPLY
    • Debbie Ward I know, i laughed when my husband told me but evidently they get very upset if you call them that.

    • It has nothing to do with The Netherlands acknowledged cheese production. It in fact refers the head of the male penis and a lack of cleanliness thereof. Yes it is offensive.

  2. last year cycling across Australia i came down with a medical condition known as LALOCHEZIA which is uncontrolled swearing to relieve stress—like a kind of safety valve !!—-urban dictionary definition of lalochezia
    “Emotional relief gained by swearing”
    “…she employed lalochezia, in private, to help her celebrate some great achievement that she had worked long and hard for…”
    – Endangered Words
    by ManGoesGood

  3. Although I don’t use a lot of these words on a regular basis, I am of the opinion that there is no such thing as bad words.
    They are all words.
    Just because someone decided a particular word was not suitable for general use, doesn’t mean they should tell everyone else that it can’t be used.
    All these words have a meaning and can be found in most good dictionaries.

  4. Should have one in parliament, but call it a bullshit jar. Only one problem It will need to be emptied each day.

  5. Although I don’t swear often, I do on occasion. I do draw the line on some words that really do offend me, however most of the the ones in the article don’t really shock me.

  6. Yes I love swear words – expressive as swear words can bethough, I try to avoid using them because I do actually think most people should be able to find better adjectives. That said a diffinitive “F—K” from you when people dont think you swear has more effect than any other negotiation. Used to work with a man who ‘couldnt finish an “f—–g” sentence without “f——g” saying “f—k” after every “f—–g” word he had to “f——g” say about every “f—–g” thing he had to “f—–g” talk about! That I think is probably pathological 🙂

  7. Ruth Hourigan There are times certain words are needed to be used to get the message through to people. My Mum who moved residency to Heaven 4 years ago aged 89.11 years, never said anything stronger then Bloody on a very rare occasion. A few months before her move upstairs we were discussing a major family issue, and my Mum said they can just Duck Off. OMG my sister and I cheered and danced with Mum sitting in her chair with the biggest smile on her face rather proud of herself. It was such a shame the 3 that she was talking about were not there to hear and see it. I am smiling thinking about it. You give it to them up there Mum.

  8. Brought up not to sweat, don’t like it and still don’t swear. We were told people who needed to swear had poor vocabulary.

  9. What annoys me is the false words used in place of the swear word, I new a young lady who is a member of the brethren church and often used a silly word as a swear word and I said to her one day “what does that mean” and she said “oh I couldn’t say the word it’s a swear word” I said to her but you’ve just said it be it camouflaged as that is what you meant which left her a little red faced. The same goes with writing f**k, everyone knows what letters are missing, if you a going to say the word just say it, if you don’t like swearing don’t.

  10. The family of a lovely relative of mine, who shall remain nameless, have a swear jar but this lovely relative is exempt as the children say she doesn’t have enough money

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