Sunday, September 02, 2007

The Primacy of Profanity

Harvard Professor Steven Pinker in his new book discusses how language provides insights into the mechanics of thought.

Pinker believes cursing is rooted in a primordial part of our brains... the same parts of the brain are involved when you bump your head and yell, ‘Oh fuck!' as when you step on a dog's tail and get a very sudden howl." ...

He points to the fact that brain-damaged patients who lose the power of articulate speech often retain the ability to curse like a sailor. "Since swearing involves clearly more ancient parts of the brain," Pinker says, "it could be a missing link between animal vocalization and human language."

"Cathartic swearing," ... is part of a primal, embedded rage circuit, and likely evolved to startle and unnerve an attacker.

The advent of language only added nuance. "If you want to intimidate someone," Pinker says, "then talking about sexual acts he does with his mother and advising him to engage in various other undignified or sexual activities is certainly one of the techniques that we use: ‘Go fuck yourself, you motherfucker. Eat shit.'" Hell yeah! |Holy @&%*! Author Steven Pinker Thinks We're Hardwired to Curse - Wired| (emphasis added)

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