Is there any real need for swear words?



If you’re trying to emotionally affect the listener and make them remember what you say, yes.

Swear words don’t have magic powers but our brains do react to them differently and the effects can be measured:

The unique emotional power of taboo language reflects properties that affect cognitive processes like memory and attention. Cursing is unlike other forms of speech; it is more physically arousing, as evidenced through physiological responses such as skin conductance or neural activity such as amygdala activation (Jay, 2003; Jay, Harris, & King, in press). Recent brain imaging research and studies of clinical populations indicate that the human brain processes taboo words differently than nontaboo words. Cognitive neuroscience and neuropsychological studies of emotional language make the distinction between valence and arousal as primary dimensions of emotional significance. Taboo words, principally because they are arousing, are remembered better than nontaboo words, and there is a neurological basis for this.

Source: “Filling the emotion gap in linguistic theory: Commentary on Potts’ expressive dimension” from Theoretical Linguistics 33–2 (2007), 215–221

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