Words and phrases that are generally considered inappropriate in certain contexts.
- Biased Language
- Never Say "Die": Euphemisms for Death
- Pejorative Language
- Swear Word
Etymology:From the Tongan. "under prohibition"
Examples and Observations:
- "People constantly censor the language they use (we differentiate this from the institutionalized imposition of censorship). . . .
"In contemporary western society, taboo and euphemism are closely entwined with the concepts of politeness and face (basically, a person's self-image). Generally, social interaction is oriented toward behaviour that is courteous and respectful, or at least inoffensive. Participants have to consider whether what they are saying will maintain, enhance, or damage their own face, as well as to be considerate of, and care for, the face needs of others."
(Keith Allan and Kate Burridge, Forbidden Words: Taboo and the Censoring of Language. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006)
- Taboo Language in Monty Python's Flying Circus
Voice Over: The BBC would like to apologize for the poor quality of the writing in that sketch. It is not BBC policy to get easy laughs with words like bum, knickers, botty or wee-wees. (Off-camera laughter) Sh!
(Cut to a man standing by a screen with a clicker.)
BBC Man: These are the words that are not to be used again on this program.
(He clicks the clicker. The following slides appear on screen:
A woman comes into the shot.)
BBC Man: (pointing) Out!
(Cut back to the chemist's shop.)
Chemist: Right, who's got a boil on his semprini, then?
(A policeman appears and bundles him off.)
(Eric Idle, Michael Palin, and John Cleese in "The Chemist Sketch." Monty Python's Flying Circus, Oct. 20, 1970)
- Taboo Language in Cultural Contexts
"Discussion of verbal insults invariably raises the question of obscenity, profanity, 'cuss words,' and other forms of taboo language. Taboo words are those that are to be avoided entirely, or at least avoided in 'mixed company' or 'polite company.' Typical examples involve common swear words such as Damn! or Shit! The latter is heard more and more in 'polite company,' and both men and women use both words openly. Many, however, feel that the latter word is absolutely inappropriate in 'polite' or formal contexts. In place of these words, certain euphemisms--that is polite substitutes for taboo words--can be used . . .
"What counts as taboo language is something defined by culture, and not by anything inherent in the language."
(Adrian Akmajian, Richard Demers, Ann Farmer, and Robert Harnish, Linguistics: An Introduction to Language and Communication. MIT Press, 2001)
- Tips on Using Four-Letter Words in Writing
"[S]omeone in my position has had to devise some rough rules governing the use of [four-letter words]. My own set of rules I now put in writing for the first time. In what follows, they and them stand for what were once obscenities.
- Use them sparingly and, as classicists used to say, for special effect only.
- Even in low farce, never use any of them in its original or basic meaning unless perhaps to indicate that a character is some kind of pompous buffoon or other undesirable. Even straightforward excretory ones are tricky.
- They may be used in dialogue, though remember rule 1. An attempt at humour will often justify their appearance. . . .
- If in doubt, strike it out, taking 'it' here as one of them."