Swearing around the world

About a month ago, I got an email out of the blue from an editor at BBC Culture asking me if I was interested in doing an article for them on why different languages focus on different things in their swearwords (or whatever you want to call them). Of course I was interested. The article went live today. If you don’t like reading crude language, taboo language, coarse language, vulgarities, etc., don’t read this article. But if you’re curious about why people shout different things when upset…

Mind your language! Swearing around the world

10 responses to “Swearing around the world

  1. I’ve been wondering why Americans use words related to the sex act as insults, since it seems contra intuitive to me. Thanks for your informative article. I have an addition for animal names as insults: the Spanish word, cabron (big goat). I’m not sure what it refers to as an insult, exactly; all my friends who were native Spanish speakers thought it was so bad they’d never tell me.

    • Lyn:

      I am Colombian. Let me try to answer your question. It has been said and proven that satanic sects and cults use both the image and the blood of goats in their rites. Having established that, and considering how conservative and religious our Latin American societies are, one can imagine why a word that describes one as satanic or at least one of their sympathizers can be considered an insult.
      Hopefully this will shed some light on the subject.

  2. I can’t read this because I live in the UK where the BBC is based! Is there any chance of reproducing it in full?

  3. what is the difference between contra intuitive and counter-intuitive James?

  4. oops sorry thought that was James writing! (any way to delete these comments LOL)

  5. Daniel E. Trujillo Medina.


    I have enjoyed this piece with unusual pleasure. I thought while reading that in Colombia we also use jueputa (which stems from our pejorative term for prostitute and our offense for whom we would call her son) when we want to express frustration, pain or sometimes even surprise. In fact, I myself use and abuse it. Thank you!

    Daniel E. Trujillo M. @VolcadoDePila ________________________________

  6. it is true. no matter what language the swear word is, it feels very ugly inside. it offends the soul and the spirit of humans. i’m about to publish a post on something similar to this in my culture and language. you can follow me on itssofai.wordpress.com and would love u to follow me too.

  7. My father, a lapsed Catholic, was groping once for a phrase to express his extreme frustration when his car repeatedly ground its gears but failed to start; at last he hit on what I still consider the perfect combination of blasphemy and scatology, and cried, “Shit almighty!”

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