Why Cursing Is so Fascinating

Swearing matters, argues Benjamin K. Bergen – cognitive scientist, linguist, and author of “What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves” – a book-length love letter to swearing. Young people are so chill about swearing, and Bergen studies it as an rebellious form of creative expression. Nevertheless, “we’re getting more casual about swearing when the words themselves have low stakes, but… we’re getting less casual about profanity of the slur type… when the stakes are high, because people perceive those words as causing harm.”
Finally, learn some proper English. “You are the expert, doctor Bergen. What’s your favorite swearword?” – “Here is one that’s inspired by ‘shitgibbon’ discussion. I’s ‘douchewaffle’.”
Also featured: writer Roxana Robinson, who traces the subversive path of a sexist slur, and performer/activist Jess Thom explains what it’s like to live with coprolalia — involuntarily swearing out loud.

Ideas with Paul Kennedy

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