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Swearing is part of all languages; should it be made illegal?

Languages - Lingua TranslationsOne of the first things most people ask me when I say I can speak German and Italian is, “So you can swear in those languages?!”

Of course when I was at school knowing swear words in another language was ‘cool’. It was one of those things that provided hours of entertainment within friends. However, my time spent in the countries was when I really saw this type of language in use.

As in English, swear words are common place in many languages. It is normal to hear words that may be considered mild swear words banded around between Italian friends, particularly when referring to other drivers on the road!

Swearing is referred to with many different names but the word profanity is perhaps the one that best encapsulates these various titles. The word profanity originates from the Latin term pro fano (literally meaning ‘outside the sanctuary’) and was used to refer to things that did not belong to the church.

This connection can clearly be seen as profanities are still unacceptable within religion, but it is also clear that for many people cursing has lost its shock factor. Nowadays it is not unusual to hear young children exclaiming words that would have earned them a swift clip round the earhole not too long ago.

That is not to say that everyone is au fait with bad language, certainly for the majority of people it may still be considered a sign of poor upbringing when a child of 11 calls his friend a series of words that would make a sailor blush.

There is, in fact, an ongoing debate as to whether swearing in public should be made illegal. Even following the ruling by a High Court judge last year that it should not be a punishable offence, the debate continues. In fact, in 2008 police in Preston, north-west England were empowered to fine people caught swearing in public the sum of £80. Throughout history there have been many examples of bills and laws banning swearing and making it a punishable offence, however swearing still remains a central part of everyday life. It is in the media constantly, of course there is still a watershed but it seems that after this hour anything goes.

Writers use swear words to add impact to a character’s lines. To express anger, fear, hatred. Sometimes they are just added in for the sake of it though.

Does this mean that swear words have lost their impact? Some words are used without a second thought, whilst others might cause you to recoil but this is again down to the individual.

Swearing could be made illegal on the basis that using these words is offensive, but offensive to whom? If the majority of people no longer find bad language to be bad then what is the point in banning it?

Some say that swearing dilutes the meaning of languages and affects the range of vocabulary used. I would be inclined to agree.

With swear words at the ready, who needs to be creative with languages? One word to suit many situations means that we no longer feel the need to search for ways of expressing emotion.

What are your thoughts on swear words within different languages? Should swearing be made illegal? Let us know you thoughts via the comment box below.

For more information on the languages we work with here at Lingua Translations, please visit our languages page.

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About Sharon Stephens

Sharon Stephens is Operations Director of Lingua Translation. With a First Class Honours Degree in Translation and a University Lecturer in Translation (Masters), she is a self confessed language geek! Bringing the academic principles of translation and business together Sharon offers a quality-driven and needs centric translation and interpreting service - like no other.

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