Curse words.

Why are some words considered curse words, and others are not? This makes no sense to me and I have been wondering why it is. Please help if you can.

For Christ’s sake, who the blue devil knows?

By “curse” words do you mean words that express the hope that ill-will/evil will befall someone? Or do you mean swear words?

Swear words.

Swear words are always by nature taboo, so swearing is defined by the taboos of the given society. Most pertain to sex, or otherwise blasphemy, neither of which are acceptable in polite company.

Yup, taboo seems to be a constant part of human culture.

One delightful example is the taboo associations with words for the female genitalia on one particular Pacific island that became exposed to the twin bad influences of sailors and missionaries. “Vagina” became the shameful taboo word, as this was the one used by the missionaries in strongly disapproving tones, while “cunt” was quite cheerfully bandied about with great gusto, as this was the word use freely and openly by the sailors.

Anyone got any info on Japanese swear words? I’ve heard the polite nature of Japanese culture has stifled this particular creative outlet.

My foreign travel was in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. I discovered that, outside the U.S. and British countries, swear words seemed to be associated w/ comparing humans to animals in a pejorative manner. Most of the seven “dirty” words were of western origin. I suspect western influence has changed that.

Nor me. I have had this discussion many times to no avail.

Though as pointed out curse words are easier. Religion being what is was to polite society (and to some might still be - I’m not trying to offend), words like damn, as in ‘Damn, you!’ for instance, is really a short way of saying either #1) I sent you to a place of the damned (Hell) or #2) God, will you please damn the soul of this person.
Just examples but you get the idea. Neither of which is the kind of street religion one should practice.

Swearing is another matter. It surely must societal imposition. It’s easier to think in terms of say music. ‘Rock and roll music (melodic words) makes teens ________’. Partly the implied (and maybe the very real) power of words to move your emotions. I doubt anyone here would be comfortable hearing the “N” word.

A lot, imo, is what horror they convey. If one were to coin a made up a slang word for, say, priests raping young boys - like “Kunk”, soon enough folks would get uncomfortable with the expression ‘kunk you!’ because of the implications of the word.

Speaking of which, the interesting thing to me is not literal translation of words but what they have come to mean. For example, ‘bullshit’ means wrong/non-sense not bovine excrement. I once had a great book that listed swearing words in several countries. What the words meant and the literal translation. My favorite literal translation (from Spanish) was something like “I curse the 12 disciples of Christ and their 24 testicles” - sorry can’t remember the emotion it was meant to portray.

So we need words to express, shock, etc. Why those particular words? Probably no reason at all. If not those words, we would just make new ones

Though I refrain in mixed company out of respect, it’s all meaningless to me.

I’m going to have a T shirt printed that says:

It’s just a FUCKING word!

Sure, but it’s not just about the meaning, sometimes certain words seem arbitrarily chosen as bad and unacceptable, while others that mean the same thing are ok. Like, why is “shit” a swear word, and “poo” or even “crap” not? They mean exactly the same thing.

I agree. Saying that some forms of a word aren’t (crap etc.) and some are is stupid.

Here’s George Carlins 7 words.

IIRC from my class in language typologies and universals, taboo words are a language universal. What’s not universal is what is taboo.

You have just given a beautiful example of how words are not the things they stand for. Words are not “by nature” bad. It’s the inference and implication that we choose to assign to them that make the difference.

My own mother, for reasons unknown to me, did not use the word “poo” or “doo doo” as other parents did. She took another perfectly good word – a verb – and used it as a noun. I won’t tell you the word, but I’ll give you a substitute: snorkle. Now imagine having to go through life thinking of snorkle as a synonym for shit. That is the curse that hangs over my head. I will go through life thinking of this word as unpleasant and dirty. What a waste.

Nigger is just a word too. Want to put that on your T shirt?

Words have power.

The main origin of curse words is the religious proscriptions. You can’t take the lord’s name in vain, etc. So that’s exactly what you do to show anger. And of course comparing people to animals or smelly things is related, so polite folk warn their kids not to call each other those words and in the child’s mind the words themselves become taboo.

This is analogous to the fact that it’s OK for a woman to be seen in a bikini on the beach, but not OK if she walked on the beach in her underwear, which covered more skin than her bathing suit. The bathing suit says, “I’m here to enjoy the beach and the weather” and the underwear says, “This is what I wear under my clothes and nobody is supposed to see.” It’s a symbol, and symbols are very important in human social interaction. The same people who say, “It’s just a word” are probably also saying, “Why can’t I wear jeans to the wedding?”

There are loaded meanings behind words. You can say that “shit” just means what it means, but there are deep connotations, as mentioned by other posters. Saying “poop” means, “I have to refer to this stuff that everybody knows about but is kind of unpleasant, but I have to say it anyway but it’s not a serious discussion so I will say so in the manner of an innocent child.” Saying “excrement” or “feces” means, “I’m discussing something very serious here and have to refer to this.” Saying “shit” (in the literal sense) means, “I’m blatantly talking about this disgusting stuff and I don’t care how you react to it.”

In my case the verb my parents taught us was “grunt”. Every time we would hear “grunt” in the usual sense anywhere we would crack up.

Why not just print one that says, “I’m a rude person with a limited vocabulary”? Many people do find the word offensive, so why go out of your way to insult or offend them?

But they don’t mean the same thing. The vast majority of the times I hear the word “shit,” they’re not talking about “poo.” It may mean “stuff” (e.g., “I got some cool shit for Christmas”) or “bad things” (e.g., “shit happens”) or “things of little worth” (e.g., “I don’t give a shit”) or “fooling” (e.g., “are you shitting me?”) or…

None of those mean “poo” in the literal sense. They’re just substituting the word “shit” for something else in order to sound cool or tough (“Lookit me! I’m a big bad grownup person 'cause I can say ‘shit.’”)

Incidentally, almost everyone I know who is offended by the word “shit” is also offended by the word “crap.”

For many words, offensiveness is in the ear of the beholder. I had a female friend once, in whose company I happened to use the word “pussy”. I was jokingly referring to her boyfriend as a pussy because he decided to leave our group outing early in the evening and go home to bed. Everyone laughed and agreed that he was, in fact, being a pussy. The girlfriend turned to me and said “I really don’t like that word, pussy. I’d really prefer if you called him a cunt.” We spent the next hour discussing the merits of the two words.

Another brief story- a girl I dated years ago told me early in our relationship “don’t ever use the ‘C’ word around me”. I told her not to worry, I rarely used that word, if ever. A few months later we were at a party and I was telling a story about this chick that I worked with at the time, and blah blah blah, story story. Later that night girlfriend was pissed- I finally got out of her why. “I told you never to use the ‘C’ word around me!” I wracked my brain trying to figure out when I might have used it, and told her I didn’t think I had. “You referred to that woman you work with as a ‘chick’!”

Chick. That’s the ‘C’ word for her. As I then learned, ‘cunt’ didn’t bother her, and she used it often. She didn’t like ‘chick’.

Oh well.

I’ve always wondered why the word ‘bloody’ is considered a curse word.
What’s wrong with blood?

Also, the English ‘Gddammit’ means something like: May God damn it, correct?
In Dutch we use 'G
dverdomme’ in the same context, but it means: God damn me.
Strange, huh.

I believe it derives from the oath, “By the blood of Christ”.