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May 20, 2013

Cursing Across The Centuries

Language, even grammar, in every culture changes constantly, but did you ever consider the idea that our sense of how proper....

...or how crude any given word might be, might also change over time?

It is a cliche' that swear words are the first words learned in any language. Shakespeare even has a quote to that effect.

But a word that he or his audience might have considered crude, may be uneventful to us today.

As you learn and use English (or any language) be sure to get a bit of background information from a native speaker about how appropriate any particular word or gesture might be.

We swear for many different reasons and occasions. Here’s an excerpt from the website that explores why and under what conditions we might curse;

"People swear for lots of different reasons, but the main three are for catharsis, to relieve pain and frustration, and also to ... express happy emotions. They swear to insult people; and swearing can be a way of bonding. Different groups of people will swear ... as a way of sort of bonding together against other people. ...

Check out the whole segment here - http://www.npr.org/2013/05/13/180811135/why-you-should-give-a-about-words-that-offend.

Words change meaning, but it is fairly rare for words to change from acceptable to unacceptable – or the reverse.

Check out this guide to curse words common to Shakespeare and his culture - http://www..shakespeareswords.com/Swearing.

And, if you want to swear like an Elizabethan, take a look here - http://www.museangel.net/insult.html.

Be sure to send us any language usages that puzzle you, and be sure to let us know what it is about language learning that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.


Also: for the first time in several years, Morf is available this summer visit your school or program. You can contact him at mmorf@mail.com.

Posted by mmorf at May 20, 2013 09:20 PM


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