They're just words...or are they?
One of my middle school age sons rates his school day on how many of certain words he hears on a given day. The less he hears, the better he rates his day. As he hops in the van for his ride home from school he gives me his tally for the day. On particularly bad days he is near tears as he tells me the tally for the day.
My niece, who is the same age, complains to me that the words spoken while she stands at her locker make her ears hurt.
My oldest son was given an assignment in his high school English class to read a certain book. Within this book appeared many of these same words. He told the teacher he would not read the rest of the book. It caused no small stir with the teacher. Even with the threat of a failing grade he held his ground. Eventually, with the help of the administration's involvement was able to get another book assigned to him and then transfered out after the end of that term.
Another son was given an assignment to read a book that contained different sort of words, but equally offensive. These words were racial slurs. It was an historical book that looked at the civil rights movement in the United States. Yet, my son still refused to read it, even after we explained the context of the words.
What is it about these words that bring such a response? Words are just words...or are they?
What is it about certain words that makes them so offensive?
They are words that carry very unpleasant meanings and messages. But it is beyond merely being unpleasant. There are many things we say that carry such meanings yet they are not considered swearing, cursing, vulgar or profain.
1: Has an emotional impact
People learning a new language often learn its swearwords first or learn and use swearwords from a variety of languages. Anyone who learns through immersion rather than in a classroom tends to use more swearwords and colloquialisms. People who speak more than one language often use swearwords from different languages, but feel that the words from their primary language have the most emotional impact. For this reason, some multilingual speakers will switch to a second language to express taboo subjects.How Swearing Works2: Is considered by some to be unfit for polite conversation
The degree to which a profanity is offensive relies upon how the use of the word affects an individual. Some will consider the original meaning of a word (for example, the sexual act) to be offensive or a subject not fit for polite conversation while others will have no objection to these subject matters. Some will feel that certain words, having an established social taboo are simply offensive, regardless of any context; others will find profanities offensive mainly when used in a way deliberately intended to offend. Wikipedia
3: Is considered blasphemous
Profanities may cause offense, regardless of context, if they have some religious meaning which may cause their use to offend those who follow a particular religion. The original meaning of the term was restricted to blasphemy, sacrilege or saying the Abrahamic God's name (or an identifier such as Lord or God) in vain, such as "Jesus Christ, that was close!". Such religious profanity is referred to as blasphemy. Wikipedia
These are just a few of the examples of why such words are considered taboo and why they elicit such responses like those I have listed..
Why We Curse By Timothy Jay