ARTS1691 - Slang and Taboo Speech


Slang is colloquial use of language. Often it introduces new words/phrases to languages, or revives old words.

Slang falls largely under taboo categories. These always have fast changeovers of slang words.


Taboo: acts that are forbidden, or at the least to be avoided.

The main taboo topics are sex, bodily functions, power, pain

Intrinsic Properties of Words

Sometimes referential words take on taboo properties. However there is nothing intrinsically bad about any word; they’re all just sounds.

Swearing is entirely intention; foreign swear words have no effect without the emphasis and intention behind them.

Mention vs Use

Mentioning words is referring to the actual word itself, e.g. “the word is ‘shit’ today”

Using words is using them for their meaning/usage, e.g. “shit! I dropped it”.

Examples of Taboo Language

"So where the bloody hell are you?" advertising campaign

George Carlin did a show on the seven words you can't say on TV.

Anglo-Saxon words vs Latinate Acceptable Words:
“A duchess perspired, expectorated and menstruated; a kitchen maid sweated and spat and bled”.


Euphemisms: Alternate, softer, words for taboo words.

E.g. “gone to a better place” for “died”