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Power and politeness: key drivers behind profanity and self-censorship [excerpt]

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Social conventions determine why we use profane language. The deliberate use (or avoidance) of profanity is often a socially conscious decision: self-censorship may be driven by politeness, while profane language may be used to establish a sense of power. The following shortened excerpt from In Praise of Profanity by Michael Adams takes a look at the connotations behind of profanity and analyzes the social drivers behind its usage. Politeness is the linguistic term for the philosopher’s moralized manners, while etiquette is the mere and perhaps not very reliable expression of politeness or manners. Much more is at stake in manners and politeness than in etiquette, though when confronted with a dozen forks at a fancy dinner, etiquette may seem, for the moment, a life-and-death matter. Sometimes those inclined to proscribe profanity are more concerned with etiquette than with manners. I don’t feel it a breach in manners when a truly frustrated person says “Shit!” Indeed, I may recognize. . .

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News source: Linguistics – OUPblog

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