The philosophy of language holds that the meaning that emerges from a string of words is not necessarily fixed but dependent on culture and social context. This interview with a philosophy professor at the University of London looks at the philosophy of language as it applies to swearing specifically.
"[W]e’re doing various things when we swear: we’re signaling what sort of person we are, what sort of person we think we’re addressing, what context we think we’re in and so on. I think that explains why swearwords have this power to offend. It’s really not quite about the words themselves but what we’re signalling to others. If you are in a job interview, say, and it’s a fairly formal context and you swear and people are offended then it’s not because you’ve used that particular word, because presumably they hear these words in other contexts without being offended. It’s more that you’re signalling disrespect and contempt for their feelings by knowing that they’re not expecting you to swear in this context and doing it anyway."
Please note: although this excerpt does not, the article uses -- and dissects from an intellectual standpoint -- language that may offend some people, as might be expected by the subject matter. iainews.iai.tv/articles/on-swearing-and-philosophy-an-interview-with-rebecca-roache-auid-832
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