Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2012

Abstract

Slang lexemes and swearwords are commonly discussed in conjunction with each other as though they were slightly different versions of the same phenomenon. However, they clearly are not, as a careful consideration of their different prototypical functions reveals. Each of these lexical categories has a central or core function, and in each case this function is linked to the obligatory expression of affect. Different kinds of affect are entailed in the prototypical uses of slang and of swearwords, but in the case of both of these lexical types, this affect is incompatible with the formality and deference of honorifics, or, indeed, of much standard discourse. Another area in which slang and swearwords overlap can be found in basic slang lexemes which share with swearwords a connection to an underlying cultural value system, pervasiveness and endurance. The existence of a slang category that shares important features with swearwords further illustrates the different yet overlapping nature of these two lexicons.

Publication Title

American Speech

ISSN

0003-1283

DOI

10.1215/00031283-1668199