Sign languages are as expressive and systematic as spoken languages, and that includes taboo words. As Benjamin Bergen writes in What the F, ‘Signers use rules of grammar, some of them specific to profanity, just like speakers of spoken languages.’ There’s also great variation in how a given idea may be conveyed – not just between sign languages or their dialects but within them.
If Cory O’Brien’s terrific post on the middle finger in American Sign Language made you want to increase your rude repertoire in ASL, look no further. The video below features a host of signers demonstrating some favourite insults and profanities. It also shows how much fun swearing can be.
On Twitter, Siobhán Britton (aka @wigglymittens) shared a recipe from the magazine Glamour (UK edition) listing an unusual ingredient: “a bee’s dick of salt.” [Update, Aug. 29: As noted by Suzanne Wilder in the comments below, the recipe comes courtesy of the sweary Australian food blog Shannon’s Kitchen. The recipe on the blog is even swearier.]
The tweet was widely shared, including by the writer William Gibson, who was so enamored with the phrase “a bee’s dick” that he incorporated it into a new post-Charlottesville rallying cry: “Tolerate not even a bee’s dick of white supremacy.”
The Wikipedia page for the episodic video game Life Is Strange says reviewers praised its ‘tackling of taboo subjects’ but ‘disliked the slang’. Straddling these areas is swearing, of which the game makes frequent and impressive use. I haven’t played Life Is Strange but I know about its taboo language, because someone has helpfully compiled a 5½-minute rapid-fire montage of all the swears in the game.
You’ll hear the usual suspects (shit, fuck, ass, dick) and derivatives galore including several X-ass compounds (musty-ass, rusty-ass…), along with creative infixation (what-the-fuck-ever) and modern spins like fuck your selfie, viral slut, bro-holes, and stepdouche. One phrase, knocked on my ass by that dick, recalls Team America’s infamous swear-speech.