Friday, March 30, 2012

Ever so slightly offensive


Pardon me.  Just trying to get my groove back (and mix up some pop culture references to keep 'em fresh). 

Okey dokey.  DW and I have been watching Stephen Fry's Planet Word, not to be confused with the Futurama episode "Planet Fry? Word.". The most recent episode focused on swearing and how it is used in languages. The thing I found fascinating was that swearing actually serves a purpose in language. Surprisingly, it is the very taboo nature of offensive words that makes them useful. Our brain learns these words and then learns to inhibit them, so as to meet the accepted norms of society. However, when we step beyond this inhibition, these words can be used to great comedic effect, but also to actually increase the amount of pain we can tolerate.  This makes swearing during child birth or hitting yourself with a hammer quite acceptable. It also recognizes the humorous or dramatic effect of swearing in entertainment. 

However, the program also pointed out that it is the inhibited nature of these words that makes them useful, and when they become commonplace, they lose this effect.  For example, someone who swears all the time doesn't receive the same benefit when experiencing pain. Fuck no. And it's benefit as an entertainment device comes from its unexpected use, where our brain is surprised by the breach of protocol.

So the moral of the story is this.  We will never stamp out swearing, but it is well worth the effort to personally avoid it.  The more you do so, the more effective it will be when you really need it.  And we shouldn't be ashamed of actually using it in those cases. No more "pardon my French", but rather "whew! I needed that!". 


Thought for the Day: The far king can't 

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