“Cathartic swearing,” is analogous to the earsplitting shrieks of rats, cats, and monkeys, and is part of a primal, embedded rage circuit, and likely evolved to startle and unnerve an attacker, according to Steven Pinker. Pinker is a professor of psychology at Harvard University and the author of a book entitled The Stuff of Thought (2007) that will appear in your bookstores within a week or so.
“If you want to intimidate someone,” Pinker says, “then talking about sexual acts he does with his mother and advising him to engage in various other undignified or sexual activities is certainly one of the techniques that we use: ‘Go fuck yourself, you motherfucker. Eat shit.’”
Pinker observes that brain-damaged patients who lose the power of articulate speech often retain the ability to curse like a sailor.
“Since swearing involves clearly more ancient parts of the brain,” Pinker says, “it could be a missing link between animal vocalization and human language.”
Pinker’s latest book is due to be released in September. I’ve read other books by Pinker, and I’ve enjoyed every one of them. This book is a fascinating look at how language provides a window into the deepest functioning of the human brain. According to the review I read, Chapter 7, “The Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television,” is the most fun. It explores sex and taboo language — you know, swearing and naughty stuff like that.
As I said, I’ve only read one review, but I already WANT A COPY OF MY OWN. I want to review this book on my site! I swear I’ll sell at least a dozen copies if I do!