Slurs offend young adults more than swearing

For several decades, comedian George Carlin spoke of obscene words that should never be said in public, and in his appearances he made the audience laugh by talking about euphemisms. Then euphemisms were used to avoid uttering obscene words and thus mitigating them. Swearing also could not be spoken publicly. Even jail was an option if someone said it publicly, though not in a few decades ago, but a four decades back, yes. In the last two decades, for example, harsh and rude words have become almost normal even when spoken publicly. The surveys were carried out among young people, and the words that would have led to prison in the 1970's are now completely normal, i.e not so rude.

It is estimated that such obscene words are no longer as indecent among young people as they are became common.


It starts to get interesting if nothing can offend young people, and we know it's not. Indecent words and swearing are therefore not offensive to young people, but something must be.


Specifically, they don’t like slurs.


Well, on the cognitive side, swearing fluency in young adults is associated with having a bigger vocabulary. People who curse more also rate higher on "intellect" as a personality trait than those who generally watch their language. One study, conducted by a team led by Brigham Young University family life professor Sarah Coyne, did suggest that adolescents who use more profanity are more likely to behave aggressively. But this correlation is most likely due to aggression causing profanity use rather than the reverse.


Slurs, on the other hand, do appear to cause harm. When a team of psychologists tracked middle school students, they found that more exposure to homophobic slurs left children feeling less connected to their school and exhibiting increased symptoms of anxiety and depression. But, because that research didn’t control all factors involved, it’s possible that the negative emotional outcomes were caused by something the study didn’t look at, not the slurs.

Other researchers, however, has demonstrated that slurs can make people exhibit more prejudicial behaviour. Teams led by social psychologist Fabio Fasoli, for example, exposed undergraduates to either a slur for homosexuals or a neutral term. Then they asked the students to allocate hypothetical funds to a variety of causes. Those who had seen the slur decided to allocate less money to HIV-AIDS prevention efforts for “high risk groups.”

Even as some slurs have become more offensive, others have arguably lost their sting.

Words like gay, dyke and queer have become less offensive because the people who they used to disparage have adopted them to express confidence or pride in their identity. Other pejorative terms have faded away. Many ethnic slurs like "dago", used at one point in time to disparage people of Italian and sometimes Spanish descent, and “kraut,” a derogatory way to refer to Germans and German-Americans, seem to have disappeared from youth consciousness entirely.

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