Popular lore says there are profound differences between how women and men behave. It also implies these differences are axiomatic, hard-wired, and more significant than the variation within each group. One such myth says women are intrinsically more polite, deferential, and indirect than men. So here’s a sweary counterexample.
Don Kulick’s 1993 paper ‘Speaking as a woman: structure and gender in domestic arguments in a New Guinea village’ (PDF)* is about a special speech genre used to address (if not resolve) social tension and conflict. The phenomenon, known as a kros, is a loud, obscene, highly public, near-daily, and stereotypically female display of anger – usually involving a woman criticising her partner, children, relatives, or fellow villagers.
Kros means ‘angry’, as in cross. It begins suddenly: a woman will ‘raise her voice sharply and perhaps shout an obscenity’, writes Kulick. Villagers stop and listen, and if the kros intensifies they will move closer to its source. The kroser usually stays in her home, and the object of her anger is normally away somewhere – if they end up face to face mid-kros, violence can ensue which may embroil much of the village. Kulick continues:
Kroses are heavily characterized by obscenity, sarcasm, threats, and insults, all of which are conveyed in shrill screams across the village. They are extremely abusive, and perhaps for this reason they are structured by precise conventions.
Following on my initial observations on the phonology of cusswords, and connecting to Iva’s recent post on cooters and hooters, I’d like to spend some time looking at some phonaesthetic clusters in words relating to private parts and emissions. Continue reading
Scottish comedian Limmy has some fun with action film clichés in this short (NSFW) sketch from his superb Limmy’s Show. It mixes familiar ideas, like the escalation of insults, with completely unexpected turns like, well, you’ll see. Let’s just say it gives the phrase bad language a new meaning. Transcript follows below the fold.
A smorgasbord of sweary bits for your weekend degustation:
All ADJ and shit
“As far as I can see, ‘all proper and shit’ is a syntactically, semantically, and pragmatically compositional combination of two constructions that have existed in English for hundreds of years.” Language Log’s Mark Liberman considers a shitty idiom.
Quick—what’s the most offensive thing you could say right now?
Whether it’s shit-gargling cunt, faggot cumtits, or something equally inappropriate, your brain’s basal ganglia helped you figure it out almost instantly. And if you didn’t blurt out what you were thinking, you can thank your prefrontal cortex, which plays a role in impulse control. For people with coprolalia, though, something in that neural circuitry has gone awry, and they can’t help letting loose with profane outbursts.
Coprolalia—from the Greek kopros meaning “feces” and lalein meaning “to talk”—is usually associated with Tourette syndrome , although it appears in only 10 to 20 percent of Tourette cases. It has also been documented in people with brain injuries from stroke, encephalitis, and cerebral malaria.