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What curse words are in common languages


One oath is like a linguistic punch to the nose. Almost every language and culture has them—and almost every language and culture officially doesn’t accept them. But that doesn’t stop them from being widely used, loud and flashy.

What gives a swear word its power is partly its meaning—often crudely referring to body parts and functions—and partly its sound. In English, for example, studies have shown that swear words contain a higher proportion of so-called complex sounds—including P, T, and K. Profanity monosyllabic words in plain English are more likely to end with a complex sound than to begin with a single sound. In German, profanities are also heavy on short vowels, as well as short vowels.

What is the less discovered sound? do not ends with curses — these soften the sound of a word so that it cannot contain the angry, purifying power that ordinary curse words do. The current, a new study in the magazine Newsletter & Psychology Review answered that question and concluded that if you want to clean up the language, the best way is to rely on words containing what are called approximations—sounds consisting of the letters I, L, R, W and Y, formed by passing air between the lips and tongue, do not touch each other during pronunciation. Across many languages, the new paper shows, words containing approximate words are generally rated as less obscene than words containing other, more aggressive sounds.

The study, conducted by psychologists Shiri Lev-Ari and Ryan McKay of Royal Holloway, University of London, recruited 215 native speakers of six languages—Arabic, Chinese, Finnish, French, German and Spanish—and give them the words they use. unfamiliar with 20 distinct languages. Although several speaker-specific languages ​​have been included in the list (Arabic, Chinese, and German), there is a good reason that none of the subjects recognized any of the words: all of them are all pseudo-words, based on real words. in many languages ​​but with slight variation, both include an approximation and do not include an approximation.

For example, the Albanian word zog for bird, has been changed to the gibberish yog, which contains an approximation, and tsog, which does not. The Catalan word soka (or rope) has been changed to sola (approximate) and sotsa (not approximate).

Study participants—titled “How Good Is Your Swearer?”—were not informed that the word pairs they were presented with were not real. Instead, they were told that a word was a curse word in an unnamed foreign language and a word was not a curse word; They were then asked to guess which one was which. In total, subjects were presented with 80 pairs of words each, and in 63% of those cases, they chose the word that did not contain the closest approximation to the potentially obscene word. Notably, those results held true even for French speakers, whose language included curse words containing approximate words, but who still found the pseudo-words less offensive. if they include approximate words.

“Our findings show that not all sounds are consistent with profanity,” the authors write, “and demonstrate that sound symbolism is more common than what has been typed. high prices before.”

In the second part of their study, Lev-Ari and McKay looked at the “sworn oaths of the sea” in English—words like “damn” and “bad boy” were used in place of alternative words. their cruder position. They collected 67 small vows that were transformed into 24 vows. (Some words have multiple swear words associated with them—for example, “frigging,” “freaking,” and “effing.”) Overall, they found that approximations were more likely to be found in words. Oaths are 70% more crumbly than swear words. .

In the third part of the paper, the researchers recruited another 100 volunteers, 20 of whom were each fluent in one of five languages—Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Korean, and Russian—and Ask them to provide a list of the most vulgar words in their language. that they can think of. Lev-Ari and McKay included only words submitted by at least two participants and came up with a list of 141 swear words. Participants then rated each swear word in their language on a scale of 0 to 100, from least to most offensive, and on another scale from least common to most common. Again, however, approximations are underrepresented in the most offensive words behind the pop, tribulation (a consonant like F or V is made by pushing air through a slit. narrow openings in the lips or throat) and other types of sounds.

The exact reason why approximate sounds are considered less offensive than others is still unclear, but the researchers cited part of the existing work that certain phonemes, letters, and sounds Certain sounds are closely related to both the meaning and the image of the word. For example, many studies have shown that smaller objects are assigned words that are spoken more frequently than larger objects. Again found that when people were shown drawings with both pointed and curved shapes, they chose jagged-sounding nonsense words like “takete” and “kiki” for the spiked shapes and “moluma” and “bouba” sounds softer for curved shapes. There’s more compared the curse words to lullabies and carols and found that while the curses contained a disproportionate ratio of pops, the songs contained what are known as sonorant consonants. — like L and W — are created without the turbulent airflow in the vocal tract.

Lev-Ari and McKay write: “The relationship between the sound and the meaning of a word is arbitrary. “However, swear words have sounds that make them particularly well-suited to their purpose.”

Must read more from TIME


Write letter for Jeffrey Kluger at [email protected].

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