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Thread: Emotionally satisfying words

  1. #1

    Emotionally satisfying words

    There is an interesting side-bar discussion going on about language in the politics forum, about politicians using the F-word and it got me to thinking why people like to use vulgar (sexual), scatological (excrement-related), or swear(religiously oriented) words to express emotions.

    Quote Originally Posted by ResonantEcho
    I tell you what. The day I hear my minister and other preachers start dropping f-bombs and other curse words during their sermons I *MIGHT* think it's okay to use such language. Furthermore, if such language is acceptable, why do *MOST* forums require you to refrain from using profanity? Maybe because it's disrespectful?

    As adults, we can handle hearing the use of such words. However, that doesn't mean we have to be comfortable with them or accept the use of them, now does it?
    When I first came to the United States in the 1960's at age 18, I was surprised by the extent of scatalogical words that people used in their everyday language. While growing up in Japan, I had American friends (many of whom, by the way, were missionaries) and they seldom used such words. I was 18 when I heard somebody call me a "mother-fucker" for the first time. It shocked me because the concept was so pathological. Once I heard the word, I began to hear it in other languages. For example, Cantonese is one of the most vulgar languages in the world and I simply did not understand the words that taxi-drivers were saying casually to each other in Kowloon. In Cantonese, the term sounded just like the phrase "hang your mother" and I realized that they did not mean hang.

    Why do people like use vulgar, scatological, or swear words? Perhaps it has to do with the taboo associated with the words. Certain neurological syndromes manifest with vocal outbursts of expletives. For example, this is a common symptom of Tourette's syndrome. It is true that swear-words (religious), F-words (sexual), and scatological (excrement-related) words provide a certain emotional kick. For example, when I was younger, I use to say "Jesus" or "damn" . Maybe this was because I spent two years in a Catholic convent school where the nuns impressed upon the children that it was very bad to use these words. On the other hand, I also said "egadzooks": egad (a bigot) and gadzooks (interjection meaning surprise). I also use the Chinese exclamation, "Ayah".

    It was not until I came to New York and encountered the emotional richness of the yiddish language that I realized the poverty of the English language. For example, there is few words as soothing as "Oy ve". And those "sch-" sounds are so vocally satisfying, such as schmaltz (maudlin sentimentality), schlemiel (bumbler), schlep (drag), schmooze (persuade), schmutz (filth, scum), schnook (cheat), schtick (bit, piece, comedy), shmuck (a jerk), schpiel (sales pitch). And there are those words that English cannot match: verclempt (bummed out), cacamaimey (crazy), chutzpah (balls), kibbitz (meddle) meshugina (crazy person), mishigas (craziness), mishmash (hodge-hodge), nebish (nerd), tush (butt)... Compared to the English, yiddish words just have a greater emotional resonance.

    So, what are your favorite emotional words?

    Last edited by Wise Young; 08-26-2005 at 08:03 PM.

  2. #2
    The professor of one of my literature classes in college was Jewish. We were talking about words from other languages that had crept into English. "Schmuck" and "putz" came up, and he replied that Yiddish has a ton of words for "penis" just like the Eskimos and "snow".

    One of my teammates on my high school hockey team was forced to use "Green!" as a substitute because he had such a foul mouth. No one else on the team had restrictions, just that one guy.

    As for me, it's hard to go wrong with "Holy smokes!" or "What on Earth?" Not that I haven't used profanity, but those two are pretty safe for use anywhere (like the workplace).

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