As humans we do not always share with those around us our deepest fears and feelings. We become very adept at wearing masks in public and learning to self censor. However swearing is a fascinating insight into how sometimes our shames and fears can burst to the surface in moments of stress and pressure. This is true not only of individuals but also of cultures.
In the West our swearing tends to focus upon human reproduction and human ablutions. This has not always been true however of our culture. For example the works of William Shakespeare contain many crude jokes, however in his time they did not have the weight that they do today because the real words not to drop were religious. People were not as offended by jokes about going to the toilet or sex but because culture as a whole was a lot more religiously minded, it was blasphemies that carried the biggest punch.
In Catholic countries, particularly latin cultures, most swearing revolves around mothers and illegitimacy, reflecting the cultural importance that the mother of Christ played in those cultures. In Cambodia one of the worst words that you can call someone could be translated as ‘land stealer’ which reflects the Cambodian cultures fear of having their land stolen by the nations that are their nearest neighbours. Some cultures refuse to swear in their own language and prefer to use other languages so as not to pollute their own tongue.
So our swearing is a reflection on what are our deepest fears both individuals and as cultures. Our penchant in the West for dropping the f bomb illustrates both our obsession and our embarrassment around the reality of human reproduction. The fact that many of our swear words also revolve around bodily fluids, shows up our fears about our bodies in a secular culture fixated upon bodily perfection and horrified by the concept of bodily limitation and decay.
So next time you drop a hammer on your foot, pause for a second before you open your mouth as you might be giving away more than you realize.