Can you say something good about swearing

Science of cursing"The taboo plays a very big role"

Carsten Schroeder: The most exciting sciences are those that are very close to everyday life, and such a science is - and now don't be surprised at the word - Maledictology. This is the science of cursing and ranting. The linguist Dr. André Opinion from the Leibniz Center for General Linguistics. Good evening, Dr. Opinion!

André opinion: Good evening!

Schroeder: If you listen to others swearing and ranting in Germany, you notice how often people swear in dialect or dialect. Let's take Bavaria: There are standard curses like Himmi, Herrgott, Sakra or Jesse's Maria - they only work in Bavarian. And if I'm not so good at it now, it's because I don't come from the region. Why is it that you can swear in dialect so well?

Opinion: Well, dialects or dialects on the one hand and swearing and swearing on the other, these are uses of language that are very close to one's own emotions. You have a real relationship with your own expressions, with your own language, and that's how it comes together. And the important thing when swearing and scolding is the presence of the emotions.

"When it comes to swear words, taboo plays a major role"

Schroeder: Especially with Bayern so deeply from the gut, Himmi, Herrgott, Sakra, but it is noticeable that there are almost religious curses when it comes to God, Deifi, there is also somehow. Why is that actually?

Opinion: This is because when it comes to swear words, taboo plays a major role. So when it comes to swear words - now I'll come back to that - it has to be about emotions, and you can really only get hold of emotions if you break any taboos. And all the swear words come from so-called taboo areas. For Germans supposedly the most prominent or most important is the fecal or the pathological, it is said scientifically, that is the excrement. So asshole is the most common and shit when swearing. Other areas are the sexual or the religious. A lot of faith and religious vocabulary is used, especially when swearing.

Schroeder: Yes, but not only. In northern Germany cursing is very different, everything is Schiet - Schietwetter, Schietkram or just Schiet - Schiet, as the North Germans say, is house-trained or decent. A distinguished Hanseatic can swear Schiet with impunity, while the High German translation of Schiet is frowned upon. How does it actually come about?

Opinion: Well, because these are different registers, if you will. And in dialect, you are back with yourself, with your own, with your family, with people who come from the same area. You are much more familiar with each other, you can also break a taboo, or what you say is not quite as literal or really bad as when you speak distinguished and then in this other variety or in this other Register then words are used that actually, well, weren't even in the dictionary before.

Schroeder: Dr. Opinion, you published a book last year with the title, "Sie Vollpfosten! Well-groomed insults for each and every one". How do you curse or curse in a well-groomed or elegant way?

Opinion: Oh, that was more of an idea - I didn't give myself this title - from the publisher. That should probably also mean that now there is no book with extremely bad, insulting things, but "You bullies!" They came up with that. Normally it sounds different when it comes to scolding, it looks different, but I think that really elegant scolding isn't really possible. That's what, well ...

Schroeder: I would almost contradict you and take the other position. When I say, you chandelier !, everyone knows that it's a different word that starts with A. That's a well-groomed rant.

Opinion: You're right. It happens quite often, this way of practically suggesting something and then not saying it. Exactly, you poor chandelier !, I can't think of anything similar, but it happens very often that you take something else to indicate what is essential, but not to express it. That's really the elegant variant, that's right, so you can actually do it that way. And that's what happens, you're right.

"The important thing is that you really reach emotions"

Schroeder: Window paste comes to mind, and it's also a popular word. How have the curses actually changed over time?

Opinion: Well, some of them somehow stay really strong forever, but as with other areas, something new usually has to come up in the younger generation because - I have to keep insisting - the important thing is the taboo that you really have emotions reaches that you can really offend someone, really hurt someone. And what worked in one generation may no longer work in the other, and new words come up. At the moment you often see what is being said among the younger generation in the newspapers, and then we see that it is really a taboo. In that sense, it happens again and again.

Schroeder: What are the contemporary swear words?

Opinion: Yes, that's actually ugly, but what you read over and over again is - at least that's the way it is in Berlin, I think it is generally the case - that you say that in the school playgrounds a Jew is a dirty word or a Christian or an unbeliever. And why, that is really something that is discussed in our society, and certain things are really border areas. You have now seen that in this discussion about the echo. This is something that really divides, or anger, society because of the potential to really hurt people, to really hurt, to hit. And that is also suitable - that is not nice - for swearwords, and that is what is done.

Schroeder: These are really taboos that you mentioned.

Opinion: Yes / Yes. This is not just being said now, breaking a taboo. Here you can see very clearly that these are things that go to the kidneys - with each individual perhaps or with society in general. But maybe a nicer example of what has changed: For example, you know or think that the oldest swear word that has been documented is dog in an old Indian religious script, and especially in Bavarian, for example, it's already that far that there is even something positive about it, so the dog, the Bazi, there is almost a bit of admiration for someone who may have done something not very flawless, but you show him respect for something. So there are such developments in swear words, albeit rarely.

Schroeder: I'm not a Bavarian, but I know the bastard, that's actually more of a compliment.

Opinion: Yes.

"Swearing is a reduction in aggression"

Schroeder: Why is swearing so good?

Opinion: Because that is an aggression reduction. So when you swear even more than when you scold someone else, it is just that something happened that you did not expect, which goes completely against the grain, so there you are hit and become aggressive, and this aggression has to get out somehow. And that happens verbally through language. Because of this, this is a very important function of cursing, or, more specifically, of cursing, that aggression is reduced. And that's also the good thing about scolding: Quite often, this verbal aggression replaces real physical violence.

Statements by our interlocutors reflect their own views. Deutschlandfunk does not adopt statements made by its interlocutors in interviews and discussions as its own.