ALICE DEVOY looks at the what, why and who of swearing. Some words are more shocking than others. They have been deemed inappropriate, offensive or disrespectful, and are placed under the umbrella term of ‘swear words’. Swear words have the ability to shock because they violate social norms and transgress established barriers of what is and isn’t appropriate. You may recognise the following extract from the 2003 film Love Actually, in which the new housekeeper, Natalie (Martine McCutcheon), embarrasses herself in front of the Prime Minister (Hugh Grant) by swearing, and so verbally violates the cultural expectations. Natalie: Hello David. I mean, Sir. Shit, I can’t believe I’ve just said that. And now I’ve gone and said ‘shit’. Twice. I’m so sorry, Sir. Prime Minister: It’s fine, it’s fine. You could have said ‘fuck’ and then we’d have been in real trouble. Natalie: Thank you, Sir. I did have a terrible premonition…Continue Reading

The female curse