Steve and Alex – Coarse Language

Steve and Alex talk about coarse language, why some people like to use it and what it represents.

Steve: Hi Alex.

Alex: Hi there Steve.

Steve: You know, today, what we’re going to talk about?

Alex: What are we going to talk about?

Steve: Swearing, cussing, blue language, color language, coarse language, whatever you want to call it.

Except we’re going to talk about it and we aren’t going to cuss or swear or anything and the reason is because at LingQ I’ve always said that I don’t like swearing.

Personally, if I see movies nowadays which are full of swear words, I don’t like it.

We didn’t have that when I was growing up and I don’t like it.

You know, I don’t shut my ears to it or turn the TV off, but I would rather… I think it’s over done.

I think it’s over done.

I also say that I think it’s not such a good idea for language learners to swear or be overly colloquial because unless they really know how to use those words they just sound foolish to me.

That’s my view and a number of people have agreed.

Others may feel differently.

And, of course, at LingQ we try and keep it off our forum and stuff like that, but I admit that many people want to know those words.

Alex: Yeah.

Steve: They think it’s fun.

Even people who wouldn’t swear in their own language think it’s really neat to swear in somebody else’s language.

Alex: Well, one thing too, actually, Robert Love Language is on the forum.

Steve: Right.

Alex: He brought up the point, I believe it was him, of saying it’s also good to know them if people say them to you so you actually understand what they mean, right?

Steve: Yeah. But, in fact, I mean I speak a lot of languages.

I mean I understand them, but people rarely… You mean because people are going to call you those names?


I mean you can tell if it’s a swear word.

It doesn’t take a special course on it to figure out if they’re swearing.

I don’t agree with that, but people seem to think that that’s kind of getting closer to the real language, the language in the street, blah-blah-blah, so there is this real interest.

It’s kind of like it’s slightly risqué or whatever and so therefore they want to learn it.

So, what happened was that two of our members, Berta and Albert, who are two of our Spanish members, they decided that they would do a series of conversations for our LingQ Library using somewhat coarse language in Spanish.

And it’s very well done and so forth, so we decided that yeah, we can have this, but we’ll put a little disclaimer there saying like parental guidance or something because, after all, on our LingQ forum and in LingQ we have 12 year olds.

We have people, who whatever their age and whatever their gender, may be offended by swearing.

So, if they are then they shouldn’t listen to this content.

Alex: Right.

Steve: But the reaction we got on the forum… And we don’t want this kind of vocabulary to be on our forum because it is, again, open to everyone.

But if it’s in a content item, a lesson in our library and it’s identified as coarse language, then people who are interested in Spanish coarse language… Then, of course, once you put “coarse language” that’s actually going to attract people.

Alex: Yeah, I think that’s one thing, too.

A lot of my friends may know multiple languages, but at the same time they know this language over here and they know about five words in it and four out of five are swear words.

Steve: Right.

Alex: So there’s also this… I don’t swear.

I don’t use swear words.

I have no interest in stuff like that, but a lot of people around me are curious.

I had some friends a couple years ago say, “Oh, teach me English swear words.”

I’m like, “Well, no.

I’m not going to teach you because I don’t use them.

Steve: Right.

Alex: They’re like, “Oh, teach us. Teach us!”

I’m like, “It’s weird to me that you want to learn”, you know?

Steve: Right.

Alex: But I think, too, what you mentioned before, it definitely is what people would call “street language”.

Steve: Right.

Alex: You know, getting really into the culture because you can’t find that kind of stuff in a textbook or a TV program.

Steve: No.

Alex: You really have to, in a lot of cases, actually go to the country or be in a place where there are people there who are comfortable and, you know…

Steve: I mean they are used.

It’s part of how people communicate.

I mean people do say those things.

It’s natural.

The other interesting thing is that in different cultures people are more or less concerned or sensitive about swearing.

Like in Spanish — in Spain — they swear all the time.

Everybody swears, men, women, all ages, school kids.

They just use what we would in English consider fairly strong swear words all the time.

In Swedish the strongest swear word you hear normally is devil, you know?

Alex: Yeah, yeah.

Steve: Not only, but it’s much, much milder.

Alex: Right.

Steve: Cantonese, also, a very heavy swearing language.

Alex: Oh, is it?

Steve: Oh, yeah.

Alex: Interesting.

Steve: Whereas, Japanese is not.

Alex: Yeah.

Steve: Japanese beast, you know?

Alex: Yeah.

Steve: That might be as strong a word as you’re going to hear.

I mean there’s more vocabulary, but I’m saying that commonly used swear words are much milder in say Japanese and Swedish than they are in say Cantonese and Spanish — in Spain.

I don’t know about South America.

Alex: Yeah.

Steve: So, these things are cultural.

Alex: Yeah and that’s an interesting thing, too, it is cultural.

It’s not just the language, too, because when my sister was in the U.K.

she said people much more actively use swear words and it’s much more common place.

Whereas, in Canada and the United States people often hold their tongue and are more reserved in that regard.

Steve: I mean, yeah.

And I think that sometimes people from a different culture don’t realize the effect it has.

Like we had a visitor from Sweden on business and he felt that what we call the “F-bomb” in English was equivalent to devil, which is “fan”, which is the F-bomb if you want it in Swedish.

Alex: Yeah.

Steve: So, he was sitting in a meeting and we had ladies present.

He was expressing himself as he would in Swedish, except he was speaking English so he was using the F-bomb regularly.

He thought that was okay.

No one here would do that in a business meeting, especially if there’s ladies present, at least of my generation.

I don’t know about nowadays.

Alex: Oh, I think it would be the same, yeah.

Steve: Now, the language that we use when I play Old Timers Hockey like in our dressing room before and after the game that’s a whole different situation, but that’s a very specific situation.

Alex: Yeah, exactly.

And I think that’s one thing, too, it’s very situational.

The usage of profanity is something that is very difficult to learn from a book or learn from one lesson.

It’s something that really is engrained in the culture and in order to really understand the appropriate usage of these things you really do have to understand the culture.

Steve: Exactly.

Alex: Have a quite advanced level in the language, too.

Steve: I think even in a country such as Spain where the use of coarse language is not particularly frowned at, if you had a business meeting or if you were applying for a job and you trotted out this coarse language it may not be that well accepted.

You don’t know.

Alex: Right.

Steve: The same I think, to some extent, is true with slang.

I’ve seen people, like this person from Taiwan who came to Canada.

He had learned very colorful English and he was in a job interview and he trotted out his colorful English.

That did not make a very good impression.

So, the thing is that these words, it takes a lot of getting used to how they work and when to use them.

It’s just not that easy.

Alex: Absolutely.

Honestly, even as a native speaker, when I come to the office I use totally different words then when I’m sitting at home with my brother.

And it’s not that we use bad words or whatever.

We do use different phrases, different vocabulary, just a different way to express ourselves because the environment is different.

Steve: Yeah, absolutely.

Now, in some languages, of course, we’re straying from swearing in slang to the other extreme.

Where in Japanese and in Korean even everyday words, the sort of relationship you have with the other person is going to influence which word you select…

Alex: Exactly, yeah.

Steve: …to convey very basic meanings like speak, go, eat, you name it.

What’s Korean like, by the way?

Are they big swearers or are they more like the Japanese?

Alex: Korean is quite interesting, because from what I know there are not that many swear words.

There are a lot of words like stupid and dumb and whatever, but there are not that many bad swear words.

I can think off the top of my head of about three and that’s it.

Steve: Right.

Alex: And if you watch a Korean movie, like a gangster movie or something, they pretty much just repeat these two or three words over and over and over and over again.

So, it’s actually quite interesting to see that.

I would say it’s like the usage of the F-word in English, where they use it as an adjective, interjection, so on and so forth.

Steve: Right, right.

Alex: People do swear, but it’s not as creative in that aspect, I would say.

It’s a very limited usage of words.

Steve: Right. Yeah, okay.

Alex: So, it’s more with the tone in Korean.

Steve: Right. Okay.

I mean many swear words are quite common to different languages.

It’s interesting, too, if you compare French to Quebecois.

In France the swear words are more similar to English, really, in terms of parts of the body or whatever it might be.

Alex: Right.

Steve: Whereas, to the Quebecois it’s more anything related to the church is what’s used.

And that’s a throwback to the days when the Quebecois were very, very religious, which they aren’t today, but the swear words have stuck.

Alex: Yeah.

Steve: So, I mean, this is all I guess a part of how a language evolves and usage evolves.

Alex: Totally, yeah.

Steve: So, it is interesting.

So, there will be the blue-colored conversations in Spanish and, quite honestly, if people want to put similar conversations up in English or Russian or Chinese or Korean or whatever I have no objections, as long as it’s properly identified and so forth.

Alex: Exactly, yeah.

Steve: Okay. Well, I think we’ve covered that topic.

Alex: Yes. Hope you enjoyed that.

Steve: Yes.

Alex: We’ll see you next time.

Steve: Bye for now.

Alex: Bye.

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