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Swearing - an investigation of some British peoples attitude towards the use of profanity
1999 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (One Year))Student thesis
Abstract [en]

The aim of this paper was to find out what attitudes a number of British people have towards swearing in general and towards the most frequent swear words. I wanted to find out whether there are any differences in attitudes that are due to either age or gender. In order to carry out my research, a questionnaire was given out to sixty informants, divided into four groups of men and women, over and under the age of 25. What is taboo and what values are important are determined by culture, environment and social structure. These factors also have an effect on language, because what is taboo in a certain language is often a reflection of the system of values. In England, the most severe taboo words are connected with sex, excretion and the Christian religion. Any word carrying an emotional charge can be used as a swear word, and those with high emotional charge are the most effective ones since they have the power to shock the adressee. Actually, swearing is a more civilized form of behaviour which replaces violence. Those who accept this function of swearing have understood that some kind of strong expressions must be allowed in a civilized society. People have thought for a long time that women and men differ in relation to the use of strong language, but the fact is that there is little evidence supporting this belief. However, there are words which are said to be typical of women, such as more exact colour terms, and the masculine counterparts are swear words. The reason for this may be that the social pressures on speakers to use correct forms tend to be stronger on women. When comparing differences due to gender, the results show that more men than women claim to swear regularly. Women tend to have a more negative attitude towards swearing and even if most swear words are classified equally by men and women, women tend to classify some of them as being a little stronger than do men. When comparing differences due to age there is more to find than those due to gender. To start with, all people under twenty-five state that they swear, whereas not all people over twenty-five do so. This is interesting since the results of this investigation show that people under twenty-five, despite the fact that teenagers are expected to go through a period of heavy swearing, are less tolerant towards the use of strong language. And even if those over twenty-five are the more tolerant people in general, they are the ones to classify the swear words as being stronger than do those under twenty-five.

Abstract [en]

The aim of this paper was to find out what attitudes a number of British people have towards swearing in general and towards the most frequent swear words. I wanted to find out whether there are any differences in attitudes that are due to either age or gender. In order to carry out my research, a questionnaire was given out to sixty informants, divided into four groups of men and women, over and under the age of 25. What is taboo and what values are important are determined by culture, environment and social structure. These factors also have an effect on language, because what is taboo in a certain language is often a reflection of the system of values. In England, the most severe taboo words are connected with sex, excretion and the Christian religion. Any word carrying an emotional charge can be used as a swear word, and those with high emotional charge are the most effective ones since they have the power to shock the adressee. Actually, swearing is a more civilized form of behaviour which replaces violence. Those who accept this function of swearing have understood that some kind of strong expressions must be allowed in a civilized society. People have thought for a long time that women and men differ in relation to the use of strong language, but the fact is that there is little evidence supporting this belief. However, there are words which are said to be typical of women, such as more exact colour terms, and the masculine counterparts are swear words. The reason for this may be that the social pressures on speakers to use correct forms tend to be stronger on women. When comparing differences due to gender, the results show that more men than women claim to swear regularly. Women tend to have a more negative attitude towards swearing and even if most swear words are classified equally by men and women, women tend to classify some of them as being a little stronger than do men. When comparing differences due to age there is more to find than those due to gender. To start with, all people under twenty-five state that they swear, whereas not all people over twenty-five do so. This is interesting since the results of this investigation show that people under twenty-five, despite the fact that teenagers are expected to go through a period of heavy swearing, are less tolerant towards the use of strong language. And even if those over twenty-five are the more tolerant people in general, they are the ones to classify the swear words as being stronger than do those under twenty-five.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
1999. , 36 p.
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-53940Local ID: ENG D-7OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-53940DiVA: diva2:1102500
Subject / course
English
Available from: 2017-05-29 Created: 2017-05-29

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