Cursing, Profanity & Swearing

I consider myself to be, at least, an average swearer; that is, I can curse and swear in several languages, besides English of course. Hitchhiking down to Rome in 1971 and totally bereft of Italian – I had earlier turned down a lift to “Firenze” because I wanted to go to Florence – a truck driver educated me, along with graphic hand gestures, all the more terrifying as we both slugged down miniature bottle of Campari as we barreled down the autostrada. To this day I am more fluent in Italian curses than in any other language other than English.

In Arabic I remember almost being arrested in the late 70’s when I muttered “kisimuk” under my breath at Damascus airport while, more recently, my Cantonese “pook guy” and “bart paw” had a student complain about me to the school principal.

So I was rather pleased when I discovered that a new study has found that those who have a healthy repertoire of curse words at their disposal are more likely to have a richer vocabulary than those who don’t.

Taboo word fluency and knowledge of slurs and general pejoratives: deconstructing the poverty-of-vocabulary myth, was published in the November issue of the peer-reviewed Language Sciences publication, debunking the “poverty-of-vocabulary” (POV) hypothesis that swearing is a sign of a deficient vocabulary and that profanity shows limited intelligence, a result of a lack of education, laziness or an inability to control oneself and we swear because we can’t find more intelligent words with which to express ourselves. As Stephen Fry once said, “The sort of twee person who thinks swearing is in any way a sign of a lack of education or a lack of verbal interest is just f*cking lunatic.”

Anyway, I have just finished reading a fascinating novel which took swearing to a new level for me. I have no idea if these are “real” words belonging to a subset of a dialectal form of English or whether the author simply made them up. Whatever, hats off to him. Here are a few samples:

  • Pussyhole (self explanatory, I’d imagine, needing no further gloss from me!)
  • R’ass (rat’s ass?)
  • fuckery ( as in an Amy Winehouse song)
  • bloodcloth ( tampon?, sanitary napkin?)
  • bombocloth or bombo r’asscloth (??)
  • rahtid (??)
  • batty (anus)
  • batty boy (arse bandit or bum boy)
  • stoosh (?)
  • duppy (a ghost)

And the book from which these little gems originate?  Well, I thought I would leave it up to you to see if you can figure which recent novel (in the last two years, anyway) they came from. Answers, please, in the comments

One last thing, while it’s great that an ability to curse can be equated with intelligence, it is probably best to use that intelligence to know the social domains within which you can operate and let off steam without causing undue offense to your “audience”!

Author: serkeen

I am Irish, currently living in West Australia. I have a degree in Old & Middle English, Lang & Lit and, despite having worked in Kuwait, Italy, Malaysia, USA, Brunei, Australia and Hong Kong over the last 40 years, I have a strong interest in Ireland’s ancient pre-history and the heroes of its Celtic past as recorded in the 12th and late 14th century collection of manuscripts, collectively known as The Ulster Cycle. I enjoy writing historical novels, firmly grounded in a well-researched background, providing a fresh and exciting look into times long gone. I have an empathy with the historical period and I draw upon my experiences of that area and the original documents. I hope, by providing enough historical “realia” to hook you into a hitherto unknown – or barely glimpsed - historical period.

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