Global swearing on the British Broadcorping Castration

The BBC commissioned an article from me on why different languages focus on different things in their strong language. It’s just gone live. They paid me for it, so I can’t just repost it here. But I can give you the link to it, and I can tell you about a few things that got cut in the edit (for length or for politeness).

Here’s the link to the article:

Mind your language! Swearing around the world

Here are three original versions from the pre-edited draft:

1. The end of the eighth paragraph, original version:

Some of the swears spread more broadly, onto father (Bosnian jebo te otac mrtvi “your dead father fucks you”), grandfather, even the whole set: Albanian qifsha robt (fuck your family), Turkish sülaleni sikeyim (fuck your extended family), Mandarin cào nǐ zǔzōng shíbā dài (fuck your ancestors to the eighteenth generation).

2. The end of the second-last paragraph:

Poor health seems to upset the Dutch more than violations of the moral code (you may have noticed that on your last visit to Amsterdam).

3. The related reading (books that I consulted – does not include articles, and does not include books exclusively on English vulgarity):

Keith Allan and Kate Burridge. Forbidden Words: Taboo and the Censoring of Language. Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Melissa Mohr. Holy Shit: A Brief History of Swearing. Oxford University Press, 2013.

Steven Pinker. The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature. Viking, 2007.

Peter Silverton. Filthy English: The How, Why, When & What of Everyday Swearing. Portobello Books, 2009.

Ruth Wajnyrb. Expletive Deleted: A Good Look at Bad Language. Free Press, 2005.

8 thoughts on “Global swearing on the British Broadcorping Castration

  1. litgaz March 7, 2015 / 7:23 am

    Unfortunately, as I live in the UK, the BBC denies me access to your article!


  2. Debunker March 8, 2015 / 2:39 pm

    I like the title. I remember hearing the ‘tip of the slung’ in question but I thought they said British Boardcorping Castration. I could be wrong. And congratulations on the commission!


  3. sesquiotic March 12, 2015 / 5:11 pm

    BTW, I used sources other than just the books listed above; the other sources were articles and various websites (there was a reddit chat on the topic that was very useful, for instance), plus some native speaker informants from a few languages. (Of course informal sources require extra confirmation.)

    The article could have been a lot longer! My first draft was twice as long. They wanted me to keep it to 1500 words. Fair enough. It just leaves more for the sequel. 😛


  4. freeglot September 17, 2018 / 1:02 pm

    I’ve mentioned the Dutch predilection for swear words based on diseases in a book I first wrote in Holland for foreigners learning Dutch – I’m a native English speaker and was immediately struck by this unique feature of the language (I know many languages and have not come across this in any others). You may want to note that, with the advent of AIDS, there is now a Dutch insult “aidslijder” (“AIDS sufferer”) – and so, in linguists’ jargon, this is a “productive” construction!


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