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All about profanity


In American culture and all around the world, cuss words have become quite common. Profanity is the use of certain offensive terms used to express curse. However, the use of profanity or obscene language is pretty common amongst youngsters and in the Western world. Now the question is, where did these terms come from? To go to its roots and find out, Heather Littlefield, the associate academic specialist and head advisor of the Linguistics Program in the College of Science (Northeastern University), shared her views on the usage of the referred bad words.

When not attached to any meaning, words are empty symbols. So, how do certain words become profane? Littlefield believes that such words take time to become so. She also highlighted how the most commonly used four-letter word in English originated. Certain body parts are used to curse and state obscene. She even stated the example of how the term toilet was made to be used as a bathroom to sound polite and then ladies’ room to ensure the same.

When asked if profane words would lose their appeal if such stigmas were not attached? She agreed and said that if those words weren’t as bad or dirty then they would not have any force or power to express hate or curse. However, a traveller or foreigner might not feel the same about a regional profane word as a native speaker. It is all about the empathy and curses it carries.

Is profanity getting accepted?

Regional dialects have different norms for the use of profanity. Studies show that women use less profanity than men. Also, during the young or immature days, people tend to use more cuss words. While performing professional roles and as parents, the usage of profanity decreases. So, the usage of profanity varies. Thus, it isn’t clear whether such terms are still a taboo or are becoming accepted with time.

Besides, a group of friends at a bar while narrating an incident would probably use profanity, but while narrating the same incident to elders or parents, they would most probably not use the same language. Thus, the use of profanity is still not acceptable. For it is not genuine and polite to use words that are humiliating and carry a sense of blasphemy.


Arpita Priyadarshinee