Building the Perfect Profanity | Discover Magazine

What helps make a swear term? Why are some terms much more profane than other people?

Temple College researcher Jamie Reilly et al. examine this issue in a new paper known as “Constructing the best curse term: A psycholinguistic investigation of the kind and which means of taboo terms.”

Reilly et al. begun out by having MTurk individuals to fee the tabooness of a established of one,194 English terms. Each and every term was given a score from one (minimum taboo) to 9 (most taboo). The authors then experimented with to forecast the tabooness of every single term dependent on 23 variables, which bundled both semantics (which means) and phonology (term length and seem).

It turned out that semantics were the most important predictor of obscenity:

Taboo terms are marginally much more abstract than concrete and much more typically connote human body pieces, bodily acts, gender, and/or disease.

The phonology of terms was not strongly associated to their tabooness, and neither was term length — which means that “four-letter terms” are not, in point, much more possible to be impolite types.

But Reilly et al. did not halt with solitary terms. Noting that term combos (compounds) can make an practically infinite wide variety of novel conditions, the authors went on to think about taboo compounds.

This led them to write 1 of the much more vibrant phrases in any approaches section I have browse:

We examined a potential resource of emergent tabooness when combining extant taboo terms (e.g., shit) with prevalent nouns (e.g., gibbon) to kind novel compounds (e.g., shitgibbon).

Reilly et al. took 487 prevalent, innocuous English terms and asked individuals to think about how nicely they would lend by themselves to staying blended with a profanity (they give the illustration “assdoor”).

The volunteers rated every single term for its “compoundability,” and they could choose whichever taboo term they believed would best match with every single standard term.

It turned out that phonology mattered in this case: shorter terms with much more halt consonants were witnessed as improved taboo compound candidates.

In conditions of semantics, “human body part,” “receptacle” and “animacy” were the functions that best predicted a term that could be fruitfully compounded with a taboo.

The five strongest candidates for taboo compounding bundled sack, trash, pig, rod, and mouth … the five minimum satisfactory candidates were fireplace, cafe, tennis, newspaper, and medical professional.

In other terms, calling an individual an assmouth is possible to be a much more efficient insult than calling them an assrestaurant. (I am not absolutely sure I concur with that.)

To me, the most interesting consequence listed here is that taboo terms you should not have a attribute phonology, but phonology does decide how very easily a term can be paired with a taboo time period. I speculate if this is associated to how particular terms just seem funnier than other people.