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Why swearing gets under some people's skin

21 July 2011

Why swearing gets under some people's skin

Some BBC Radio 4 listeners were shocked when regular presenter James Naughtie mispronounced the surname of the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt. Others were not so bothered. Jeffrey Bowers and Christopher Pleydell-Pearce from the School have just published a paper in the prestigious journal PLos ONE that sheds some light on why. Using measurements of arousal based on skin conductance, they demonstrated that swearing automatically triggers strong emotions when such words are acquired early in language development. Euphemisms and swearing learned later in life or as part of a second language do not acquire these emotional associations.

 

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