It has been more than 40 years since American comedian George Carlin immortalized the “seven dirty words” one can’t say on TV, and most of them are still taboo on the airwaves.
But in everyday conversation, social attitudes have changed, professor of cognitive science Benjamin Bergen tells The Current’s Anna Maria Tremonti.
For starters, he suggests, just look at the first word in Carlin’s list.
The F-word isn’t even in the top-10 most offensive words of English anymore according to young American adults, says Bergen, author of What the F: What Swearing Reveals About our Language, our Brains, and Ourselves.
Swear words, he explains are little more than words that we all agree to react to in a certain way. And we all learn that from a young age.
“We’re creating bad words in the minds of our children exactly by our reaction to them,” he says.
Bergen has a young son, and tells Tremonti in his own home “run-of-the-mill” swearing is an everyday occurrence. But he draws a distinction between swearing when you stub your toe and using abusive language meant to cause harm.
Read more: CBC Radio