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The worldwide use and meaning of the f-word
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Languages, Department of Scandinavian Languages.
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2019 (English)In: Intercultural Pragmatics, ISSN 1612-295X, E-ISSN 1613-365X, Vol. 16, no 1, p. 85-111Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article documents the increasing use of the English curse word fuck worldwide, as well as its degree of adaption into the host language, its syntactic function, and its meaning and its strength as taboo. Comparing the use of fuck with a special focus on the Nordic countries (Norway, Denmark, and Iceland) with its use in Eurasia and Africa (with different alphabets, namely Cyrillic in Russia, Devanāgarī in India and Ge’ez script in Ethiopia), we found some similar developmental patterns, but also differences, for example to what degree the English loan word has replaced local curses and in what ways among social groups within a country. Comparing the terms used for the same concept was challenging because some countries have better text corpora and more research on written languages and especially on taboos, and those without such resources required additional minor investigations for a baseline. Findings revealed that fuck has spread worldwide from English, and it is commonly used in Nordic languages today. In Russian fuck is also adopted into the heritage language to a relatively high degree, and it has further gained importance in the vocabulary of India, where English has become the most used language by the higher and middle classes, but less so by lower classes. In contrast, the study of Amharic language in Ethiopia shows that the f-word is rarely used at all, and only by youngsters. We found a pattern starting from the outer North with Icelandic having adapted and adopted the word fuck the most, a slight decline in use in Norwegian and Danish, with less adaption and use in Russian, even less in Indian-English or Hindi, and being more or less absent in the African language Amharic. Formally though it is used conceptually both in Hindi and Amharic

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Mouton de Gruyter, 2019. Vol. 16, no 1, p. 85-111
Keywords [en]
Globalization, cursing, swearing, Norwegian, Danish, Icelandic, Russian, Hindi, Amharic
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
Research subject
Scandinavian Languages; Linguistics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-377940DOI: 10.1515/ip-2019-0004ISI: 000459337500004OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-377940DiVA, id: diva2:1292434
Available from: 2019-02-28 Created: 2019-02-28 Last updated: 2019-08-01Bibliographically approved

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Óskarsson, Veturliði

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