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Causes of Swearing Essay

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Updated: Apr 23rd, 2019

Swearing is an expression of displeasure, pain, anger, and resentment using a language that is prohibited. The prohibition of such a language is connected with cultural aspects (Vingerhoets Bylsma & Vlam 1). The expressions used in swearing are taboo and cut across human civilizations with religious, social, biological and neurological influences (Harran 2).

Although swearing may have some universal features, its impact and meaning are significant depending on the context. Thus, the study of swearing ought to be understood in terms of the origin and historical development or adoption of the words and the expressions.

For instance, Shakespeare used words such as sblood which meant “Christ’s blood”, and this was considered profane language in the 16th century’s society and most cultures of the post medieval age (Harran 4). One must understand the trends in the evolution of words and phrases to determine profanity, curse and other words related to swearing.

This is vital in the contextualization of swearing. The context here may be institutional, such as religion and school, or chronological, such as the ancient, medieval, and modern realities, or geographical and cultural (Cressman, Callister, Robinson & Near 128).

Biological factors that are related to swearing appear in the words used for expression and the cause. In terms of the words associated with the biological factors, the expression “I’ll hit your asshole” refers to contempt of the “posterior end or the anus” (Harran 7). This is also in the connotation of the biological term in the expression dickhead poked (Harran 2).

This refers to the “glans of the male organ.” Most of the profane utterances among the young people relate to excretory and sexual aspects (Cressman et al. 124). Besides, referring to the biological organs or activities, swearing is a function of biological processes.

Pains and emotions are the major causes of swearing. Swearing reduces perceived pains in female as compared to males. Swearing among the females enables them to withstand painful conditions for a longer time than among the men. It is also observed that generally, swearing reduces pain perceptions but increases the heart rate (Stephens, Atkins, & Kingston 1054).

Access to media with profane content is also an instigation of swearing. Mentioning biological organs in media content in profane contexts has an impact on the viewers. Young people hear those words and start using them in their swearing expressions (Cressman et al. 129).

In social contexts, swearing is caused by high tensions in public places. Positive swearing is widespread in highly tensional organizations and work places (Harran 9). Social interactions with peers and exposure to similar stimuli may cause an individual or a group to swear for various reasons. As a fashion and mode of social identity, males may swear in words that befit their social contexts.

Similarly, the females and people who share a social setting use swearing expressions but with varied meaning. The continued use of certain words in movies and traditional media shifts the perceptions on swearing. It leads to the use of swearing expressions without regard to the taboo or cultural prohibition.

The drastic shifts in the social contexts are attributed to the cultivation theory. The theory explains the influence of media on culture. The people who had restraint on the use of certain words of profanity are now using them without a feeling of violation (Cressman 118 & 119).

The use of depressants on the central nervous system and sleep debt may cause nervous straining. If such persons are subjected to extensive motor activities, they may end up in hyperactive practices, such as swearing and chanting. Some mental disorders and sharp changes on the metabolic rate system may cause swearing on the affected people (David 182).

Strong emotions that affect the brain’s functionality may cause swearing. Strong emotions are caused by the hypoangesic effects. The effect is mainly caused by negative stimuli, bad smell, electric shocks and extensive heat may lead to hypoangesic. It is observed that hypoangesic effects are associated with the basal ganglia and the limbic system of the brain.

This shows that their effects on the neurobiological systems may lead to swearing, among other forms of reaction to pain (Stephens, Atkins, & Kingston 1054; David 182). The right hemisphere of the brains is the main instigator of swearing.

This follows the reaction to rage and frustration, which runs through the hypothalamus to the midbrain. A sudden reaction in the brains may lead to catharsis effects, which are the external communications that result from how an individual is affected in the internal neurological systems (Vingerhoets, Bylsma, & Vlam 290).

Social, biological and neurological effects may cause swearing by individuals, irrespective of their contextual interpretations. Some cases of the swearing happen consciously while some may be unconscious. If a certain phrase is woven into the normal communication languages of a given culture, swearing always happens unconsciously.

Also, sudden pains may lead to unconscious swearing. Swearing for fun or in the context of peers happens consciously, and the group uses the words according to their own interpretations (Vingerhoets, Bylsma, & Vlam 290; Harran 6).

Works Cited

Cressman, Dale, Mark Callister, Tom Robinson & Chris Near. “Swearing in the Cinema An analysis of profanity in the US teen-oriented movies, 1980-2006.” Journal of Children and Media, 3.2 (2009): 117-135. Print.

David, Ronald B. Clinical Adult Neurology. New York: Demos Medical Publishing, 2009. Print.

Harran, Thomas James. “The Role of Swearing in Language.” Communications Journal, 23.2(2010): 1-11. Print.

Stephens, Richard, John Atkins, & Andrew Kingston. “Swearing as a response to pain.” NeuroReport, 20.12(2009): 1050-1060. Print.

Vingerhoets Ad J.J.M., Lauren Bylsma, & Cornelis de Vlam. “Swearing: A Biopsychosocial Perspective.” Psychological Topics, 22.2(2013): 287-304. Print.

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