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Thread: English as an abusive language

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    The Hairy Wookie Mycernius's Avatar
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    English as an abusive language

    This really stems from another thread called 'Don't give me a $h!+?' by Momo.
    I have worked will people from other countries whose first language is not English. Yet when they speak or argue with each other their dialogue is littered with english expletives? Can anyone explain this? Has english got a richer vein of abusive language than other languages, or is it just that these people have been exposed to english expletives by living in an english speaking country?

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    Chukchi Salmon
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    This is a very good topic, Mycernius. I had thought of starting one like this myself, but hesitated due to my general lack of expletive vocabulary in its many, varied, interesting possibilities. I'd like to leave two remarks/questions here for a starter.

    1. How is fluency in the pejorative subset of the language related to higher fluency in the language in general ?

    I've held off using cuss words, phrases, and fixed expressions in my mother tongue Korean for about 25 yrs, and felt unable to express myself in so many instances. When I decided to change that, and began to speak out on my negative feelings (sometimes positive feelings, too), I felt such a release from the old tension that crippled my person. I am elated when I can deliver a full round of expletive ammo in polished style. I can feel whole as a person, and the language is now closer to what I consider full fluency.

    2. Can cussing be considered a language universal ?

    When I asked certain language questions of a Chinese conversation partner, a native speaker of Mandarin, she said that she was amazed how quickly many learners of Mandarin picked up that part of the language. Aside from being humorous, this suggests that cuss words constitute a core area in the innate language ability of all humans. I wonder if anyone can prove this in general. Let me have a shot at it.

    All cultures have ways of expressing negative emotions which is reflected in the language(s). When a non-native speaker of English comes in contact with English for the first time, the usually short and nonamibivalent character of the cussing expressions are some of the easiest examples of English to assimilate.

    It is a very good thing that this mode of speech is available to the language learner, both for the emotional well being and for the practice of phonology, morphology, and syntax in the newly aquired language.
    Last edited by lexico; 22-02-05 at 12:38. Reason: subject verb agreement, redundancy, incorrect figure
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    Z: You asked me how I knew implying you knew I knew. In fact I saw some fish, strolling down by the Hao River, all jolly and gay.

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    "Die, ugly." JustJosh's Avatar
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    Yes, I beleive English has the richest vein of expletives than any other language. Why that means foreigners use them, I don't know.

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    Regular Member bossel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JustJosh
    Yes, I beleive English has the richest vein of expletives than any other language. Why that means foreigners use them, I don't know.
    I doubt that. Lexico's explanation is more probable. I know from my experience with foreigners in Germany that the 1st word most of them actively use is one of the most common German expletives: Scheiße!

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    カメハメ波! Glenn's Avatar
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    Heh, that's one of the few German words I know. I learned that one from "The Bourne Identity." Other than that I can ask where the busstop and the train station are, and not much else.

    I didn't learn the Japanese "curse" words first, though, probably because I was more interested in learning the language than just how to be pissed off. Of course, Japanese doesn't really have the same kind of expletives that English does, and the whole pissed off thing that I would hear in anime didn't center around words like it does in English. Even picking up on the occasional koitsu or aitsu doesn't really work, because those can either be bad or good, and they certainly aren't profane by English standards.

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    Southern Sun Duo's Avatar
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    hehe, i don't think so, the best and most creative cuss phrases are defentely from the balkan countries, and such a wide selection 2

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    Go to shopping PopCulturePooka's Avatar
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    I was going to say that. Eastern European and Russian based languages have some extremely nasty cussings, many involving your mother.

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    Regular Member Sensuikan San's Avatar
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    Holy %$*+ !

    #@*$ ! This has got to be a #@*$ing interesting thread ! Must get in on this one !

    I would like to think that English has a richness of cuss words - that would probably mean that my own vocabulary is quite comprehensive by international standards !

    And it is probably a very good contender. I remember once borrowing a very expensive and fairly rare (at the time) dictionary of English slang, and being absolutely amazed at the size of it ! ..... and I was horrified to find out that I had used at least 90% of its contents in conversation !

    But ... is English really the champion ? Don't all languages have a similiar list of the same expletives and insulting words - in direct translation (certainly in European languages, the same references to 'lavatorial' talk, sexual organs, etc. all exist and are used similiarly)?

    I think we should differentiate between "cuss words" and "insults" (usually constructed phrases - which may or may not include an actual cuss word).

    I have been told that Arabic has a fine selection of insults. And as others have posted, many Eastern European languages share this embellishment!

    But - when it comes to actual "taboo" words - I have the strong suspicion that they flourish in all languages.

    And, in closing - as far as the English speaking world is concerned - one could do no harm by examining the imaginative offerings of our Australian cousins when it come to the colourful use of the vernacular !
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    The Hairy Wookie Mycernius's Avatar
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    Wink

    Quote Originally Posted by bossel
    I doubt that. Lexico's explanation is more probable. I know from my experience with foreigners in Germany that the 1st word most of them actively use is one of the most common German expletives: Scheiße!
    That's one of the few German words I use in everyday swearing. I like the way it sounds. I think to be able to say a short expletive it must be sharp and to the point. The french 'merde' seem to be lacking this punch than the German and English equivalent. I find any swear word must get your view or temper across quickly. I have heard that Welsh has no swear words in it. Any Welsh care to comment? There's a language for you to learn lexico-san, Welsh, or look at.

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    Regular Member hershal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mycernius View Post
    I have worked will people from other countries whose first language is not English. Yet when they speak or argue with each other their dialogue is littered with english expletives? Can anyone explain this? Has english got a richer vein of abusive language than other languages, or is it just that these people have been exposed to english expletives by living in an english speaking country?
    I think one reason for that is the expletives in other languages don't seem to one as taboo as in one's first language.

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