Swear words are a universal language, scientists have found, because swear words in all languages are missing the same letters.
Certain sounds such as l, r and w rarely appear in swear words, scientists say, and are more likely to be used in so-called hash oaths, watered down versions designed to cause less offense.
Darn, for example, is a hashed oath of whore and is considered a less offensive version.
Professor Ryan McKay and Dr Shiri Lev-Ari, co-authors of the study and psychologists from Royal Holloway University in London, told the Telegraph that the use of the letter r, one of the most harmless, “may be part of the reason”. why these PG swear words are deemed more acceptable.
“The most vulgar words”
The team recruited 215 people who spoke either Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, French, German or Spanish and asked them to rank the offensiveness of the “most vulgar words” as 20 native speakers of Hebrew, Hungarian, Russian , Hindi and Korean could find. with.
After filtering out duplicates and racial slurs, the team ended up with 34 swear words and phrases in Hebrew; 14 in Hindi; 14 in Hungarian; 17 in Korean; and 26 in Russian.
Words translated into English included s—,f—, b——, f—— silly, w—– and d——-, between others.
The data shows that participants who saw these foreign curses were significantly less likely to think words with the sounds r, l, and w were swear words.
However, foreign words without these sounds were judged as swear words 63% of the time.
Scientists say that r, l, and w sounds can make words less offensive because they are loud or filled with deep, rich sounds.
“Calm and Contentment”
“People may associate these sounds with calm and contentment, and thus perceive them as inappropriate to offend,” the scientists told the Telegraph.
“Humans and nonhuman animals produce harsh, abrasive sounds when distressed (e.g., barking, screeching, screeching) and soft sounds when calm and content, so these trends may underlie the associations we found.
“A previous study in English found that lullabies contained proportionally more of these sounds, so there may be something inherently soothing about these sounds.”
The scientists believe their work shows there is a universal theme to swear words, which means they pass well across languages.
The results are published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.
Writing in their paper, the scientists said: “Our findings reveal that not all sounds are equally suitable for profanity and demonstrate that sound symbolism – in which certain sounds are intrinsically associated with certain meanings – is more prevalent than commonly believed. had enjoyed before, extending beyond mere designation. concepts to serve pragmatic functions.