“Let us swear while we may, for in heaven it will not be allowed.” – Mark Twain

shit.jpgCorr, innit great, a good old Swear? Really gets that feeling of violence or frustration or anger out, doesn’t it? English language swearwords are really onomatopoeic – there’s the stabbing, nasty consonants of ‘fuck’ and ‘cunt’, the bulky bolshiness of ‘bloody’, the idiocy of ‘arse’, the slippery and splatting exasperation of ‘shit’. And we can turn all the expletives into adjectives, too! Fucking, cunting, shitting. What a release!

Cunting‘s a great one. It is completely made-up for effective swearing; the others are actual participles, doing words. but how does one ‘cunt’, if we declined backwards? So to speak…

[The Imp reclaims ‘cunt’ for the movement. How can it be the worst thing you call someone? The word is out there, offended ladies and men. If you keep it a secret, keep it hid (although it pops out of the mouths of bad people), then it gets more powerful, and hey, guess what? It WILL be the worst thing you call anyone because it will have so much clout. Sod that, come on, USE ‘cunt’, make it a progressively weak swear word! Then it’ll be less misogynistic. Think about it: prick, cock, dick: not nasty, just foolish. The cunt campaign starts here.]

Anyway, there is some interesting English-language psychology about swearing. Apparently, in Japan, they do not have such words. There are swear-meanings, but the words are usual, dictionary-approved words used with a double-entendre, or second meaning. There IS no stabbingly viscious, onomatopoeic ‘fuck’. [For those linguists reading, we’re into the territory of the good old signifier/signified; the Japanese have sweary signifieds but not unique, single-meaning sweary signifiers!]


In British Sign Language, ‘fuck off’ could be very simple and straight-forward – a V-sign, perhaps. A good old two-fingered salute (interesting – why is one finger ruder than two? is it the flick of the wrist, like an exclamation point? An extra, ‘I don’t care’? on top of ‘please go away’?)

Back to BSL and the two-fingered salute. If that was it (it’s not), we’d all know what it meant. But that’s not how it’s done. It’s slow, deliberate, and highly effective (no, I can’t find a vid of it for you; what’s on the web / Youtube’s no good). It’s got two parts to it and really gives you time to mouth ‘Fuck Off’ at the same time. Like spoken English, it’s powerful, visually onomatopoeic. But there’s no word for ‘fuck’ in many other languages: you have to tell someone to go and fuck themselves; it’s just not a pure expletive.

Well, I may well come back to this one; there’s lots of fresh meat, I suspect…Anyone got any examples from other languages that say more about our / their culture and psychology than the actual words themselves?