Atarifever wrote:I've never really looked into it, but I imagine "swear" words are probably "bad" because they are emotionally charged, often used in emotional contexts that are unpleasant or private, and convey very little useful value.
It also has a lot to do with what linguists call "register" -- the idea that you use a particular type of language in a particular context, and using the wrong mode at the wrong time/place can have negative consequences.
If your speech is casual and laced with "swear" words, it can connote a few different things:
- the idea that you're talking to a person of equal or lower status, and yet that you don't see yourself as "above" using informal/vulgar speech;
- the idea that you may have some familiarity or intimacy with them, so that you don't have to be formal or "careful" with your speech;
- and the idea that you may be speaking in an unguarded, uncalculated, spontaneous way -- in other words, that your speech is authentic, sincere, and truthful.
Note that I'm not saying any of these things are
the case, but merely that using obscenities/profanities can be perceived in these ways, and that people sometimes use "swear" words in a very calculated way towards one or more of these ends.
Of course, these are also valid reasons to be offended by their use. When the young swear in the presence of the old, it feels disrespectful because it erases the difference in their respective status, and implies that either they think they can "get away" with it or they simply don't care.
When you swear in a conversation with someone you barely know, it can feel like an unwanted, unearned familiarity (which is why The Jerky Boys did it all the time: to make people uncomfortable). And if you use any
mode of speech in a calculated way, intending to symbolize authenticity without actually meaning it, people can often sniff that out and are repulsed by it.
So they're definitely not "just words". They symbolize relationships between people -- of trust, of status, of intimacy -- that normally have to be earned. It irritates us when someone violates those boundaries, because it signals that we might not be able to trust them to respect other, more urgent boundaries.