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The Science of How and Why We Swear

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Michael Wilson
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Benjamin Bergen: Most of my work focuses on how people understand words, and how they manage to communicate ideas through time and space using this limited bandwidth.

You ve boiled it all down to four basic categories, best summed up as Holy Fucking Shit Nigger.

Bergen: Across the board, those are the primary four categories for swear words: religious concept, sexual activities, bodily functions and organs, and derogatory language for other social groups.

What we know most about profanity throughout history is that it has been predominantly worlds relating to religious concepts, copulation, or bodily functions that were considered the strongest words.

Frak in Battlestar Galactica, or frell in Farscape—they have so many consonants.

Bergen: There is this pervasive belief that profanity is going to cause harm to children.

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Michael Wilson
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