The English into how it is now (Omissi, 2015).

The core issue of the swear word would generally lie on the question of how does it appear? This question would then bring us back to the beginning of time where the languages of English itself were being separated into two namely Old English and Old French. The dispute between Harold Godwinson and William, Duke of Normandy, over the throne of England is what made English into how it is now (Omissi, 2015). When William took over the course of England, the country has been divided upon the linguistic ground, where the peasant, spoke a West Germanic language or the Old English, and the nobles speak Old French (Oxford Dictionary, 2016). Thus the answer to why swearing word sound alike to the German ones, for instance, the word “arse” which we commonly said as “ass”. Those taboo words have already been identified as words that could offend because of the history of long-term prejudice where there are two different perceptions of French and Germanic vocabulary. One is said to be cultured, meanwhile, the other one is distasteful.

2.1.1    Types of swearing

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According to Jay (2009), swearing is like honking a car, meaning there are many reasons that will motivate people to do it. The ranges of what motivates people to use swear words depend on the spontaneous form example habitual epithets, or reflective forms such as joke (Lancker, 1987). It is more than just the word itself, there are literature categories that would define each type of swear words, thus explaining the motivation that drives people to use it. According to Pinker (2007), there are five categories of swearing, which are; dysphemistic swearing, abusive swearing, idiomatic swearing empathic swearing and cathartic swearing.


Table 1: Types of swearing (Pinker, 2007)



1. Dysphemistic swearing

Forces listener to think about the negative or provocative matter. Using the wrong euphemism has a dysphemistic effect. (Example: He fucks her!)

2. Abusive swearing

For abuse or intimidation or insulting of others
(Example: You motherfucking son of a bitch! Fuck you asshole)

3. Idiomatic swearing

Swearing without really referring to the matter. Just using the words to arouse interest, to show off, and express to peers that the setting is informal.
(Example: Fuck, man.)

4. Empathic swearing

To emphasize something with swearing.
(Example: It was so fucking big!)

5. Cathartic swearing

When something bad happens. One evolutionary theory asserts it is meant to tell the audience that you’re undergoing a negative emotion.
(Example: Aww, fuck!, Damn this coffee)


This typology of swearing was found in Pinker (2007), where he laid out five categories of swearing that was found by his study. He claimed that in order for us to understand the human mind, we must first understand the language. Those five categories where different from each other because it has different emotional connotation. Below would be the summarised form of the five categories:

        i.            Descriptive swearing: Let’s fuck!

      ii.            Idiomatic swearing: It’s fucked up.

    iii.            Abusive swearing: Fuck you, motherfucker!

    iv.            Emphatic swearing: It’s fucking amazing.

      v.            Cathartic swearing: Fuck!

If we look closer to the statement, it varies from each other. Descriptive is a direct translation of the emotion and feeling, while idiomatic refer to the matter at hand, mostly to arouse the interest of the surroundings. Meanwhile abusive is to insult another person, empathic is a strong feeling that is being exaggerated, and cathartic comes naturally, when something bad happens, people will use swear words to assert that the person undergoing a negative emotion.

In this particular research paper, we would only look on abusive swearing, empathetic swearing, and idiomatic swearing because these are the types of swearing that people usually posted on YouTube commentaries. The most disturbed type of swearing would be the abusive type because a plain rude behaviour of insulting others with no particular reason can be referred to a negative behaviour because they attack somebody identity and they cause a specific emotional reaction (Wibowo & Kuntjara, 2012). This type of interaction that we always see in YouTube commentaries is very disturbing because we really do not have any idea why or how they are making sense of the world.             

2.1.2    Significance of Swearing

According to Drews (2014), there are meaningful meanings within the word we use. A conventional linguist would argue that the word that consists of a collection of syllable associated with the idea. However,  most the idea would mean more than just its literal meaning. The amazing thing about a collection of the word is that when it has been molded into a sentence, it brings out a meaningful emotion. According to Pinker (2007), the usage of language is more than just to communicate with each other, or to convey simple messages, but they also carry the emotional connotation that will show how the feeling of the speaker itself. That emotional connotation can be so intense that somehow there is where the swear words appear.

According to Jay and Janschewitz (2012), putting aside the scientific reason for swearing among humans, the contemporary issues revolving around swear words would be; is swearing harmful? Should children be allowed to swear? Most linguist researchers argued that swearing is an act that does not necessarily imposed a bad perception, or in short word, they are not highly emotional, confrontational, rude or aggressive. However, according to the recent approaches to politeness strategy that encompass impoliteness and rudeness incorporate that situations where speakers intentionally or unintentionally use offense word to provoke social harmony (Thomas 1983; Arndt and Janney 1985; Lakoff 1989; Kasper 1990; Beebe 1995; Culpeper et al. 2003; Locher and Watts 2005; Bousfield 2007). Assessing whether swear words is an act of rudeness involves many factors and theory, for example, Lakoff (1989), explained that when swearing is perceived as an affront to a listener, this may be considered as rude by the speaker.

Some researchers argued that the purpose of swearing would be divided into two; namely constructive and destructive. Meaning that there are some people who use swearing to emphasize something and there are others who use swearing to literally hurt the feeling of others. According to Steinmetz (2016), the constructive purpose here does not mean that it is a positive habit, but rather has some sort of helping mechanism to the human mind. An experiment was conducted to see how human dealt with pain and it turns out that swearing can help human to withstand the uncomfortable pain they feel. On the other hand, a destructive purpose means that the words are really built to cause harm and to offend another person. This type of swear words that need to be examined to ensure that it will not be ingrained into the human mind. In this particular research, we will examine the respondent swears words and the purpose behind those words; whether it is constructive or destructive.

2.2       Modern Day Swearing

2.2.1                Modern communication of YouTube commentaries

This evolving world that we experienced made everything become more advanced. For that reason, our Internet medium has expanded vigorously for the last decade. One of the media where people would interact with each other is called social media. According to Nations (2017), social media comprises of a series internet platform, namely, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Tinder and many more. The main idea of social media is for people to interact with each other with no boundaries. Everyone is free to access and use the social media and free to express their feeling and emotion. For this particular study, the researcher will use Youtube commentaries as the media platform to collect the data and respondent.

According to the CEO of Youtube, Susan Wojcicki, Youtube now has reaches 1.5 billion views from all around the world. By definition, YouTube is a media platform for people to watch and upload videos whereas commentary is a new concept where it is a platform where people shared their comment or insight about the video that they are watching. Sometimes, when things get exciting, people start to interact with each other by replying their comments and when things got out of hand, for example, different opinion and beliefs, they started to argue with each other. The problem with YouTube platform is that it is for everyone. Freedom was given to any person in this world to post a video or even leave comments of any sort, whether to motivate or downgrade other people. This concept has actually changed our world (Diu and Ritchie, 2015).  According to Stern (2008), the younger generation would perceive themselves as for how they are viewed and valued by another person. By using discouraged words such as cursing to downgrade or hurting the other person, it will make a great impact on their emotional connotation. The media have a direct and immediate effect on those who paid attention to the content, thus, when taking it to an extreme level, it will be unconsciously being absorbed to the viewer’s mind. That concept can be applied to the swearing words that have been used in YouTube commentaries because people would perceive posting cursing words as rude and impolite.

2.2.2                Relationship between swearing and modern communication

There is some researcher argued that swearing can be considered as polite, but that will only apply on certain terms.  On the other hand, among internet communication, there is a certain context that could be considered as a violation that leads to impoliteness or rudeness (Haugh, 2010). As cited in Dynel 2012, the linguist has argued that virtual communication has a similar impact those with face-to-face interaction (Graham 2007; Stommel 2008; de Oliveria 2007; Haugh 2010). Even if they do display slight differences, but there is still evidence that showed swearing in digital communication is similar to attacking someone verbally in the literal meaning. Thus, many language users perceived swearing in digital communication as offensive, hence the prohibition by the law in many countries. The mutual fact that people do know swearing word is disallowed, no matter in any kind of situations, are one of the contributing factors to the research made in regards to the interaction using swear words by computer-mediated.

Culpeper (2010) also reports that focusing solely on internet communication, especially Youtube, the commentaries are overflow with impoliteness as the usage of swear words is high. As cited in Dynel (2012), in media discourse, obscene words happen to be modernized by the target audience, who eventually would use it in their daily conversations, heedless of the rudeness that the word carried. In this modern world, in order to communicate with each other, we must understand the language that they are exposed and commonly used, or else we will be considered as an outsider. Despite all the research made of how certain word could be considered as polite, there are studies made that argued impoliteness can be noticeable using internet commentaries, where cussing is available. What we should be looking is the bigger picture, beyond the common ideas of people that think cursing is commonly used in internet medium just because “everyone does it”.

2.3       Impoliteness Strategy

2.3.1                Definition of Impoliteness Strategy

According to Culpeper (2003), impoliteness strategy can be defined as communicative strategies that were designed to attack the face, therefore would cause conflict and disharmony. This action would violate the first impoliteness strategy, which is to encourage harmony. In short, any action that was intentional to attack the face of addressee can be considered as impolite. The main keyword here would be “intentionally” because that will be the main comparison to sort out between polite and impolite. According to the linguist, there are six strategies of impoliteness, namely; Bald-on Record Impoliteness, Positive Impoliteness, Negative Impoliteness, Off-Record Impoliteness, Withhold Impoliteness and Impoliteness Meta-Strategy: Sarcasm or mock politeness. For this research paper, each respondent would then be sorted into any category from impoliteness strategy to find the clear purpose of why they use taboo words.

Table 2: The impoliteness strategy (Brown and Levinson, 1987)



1.Bald-on Record Impoliteness

The Face Threatening Act (FTA) is performed in a direct, clear, unambiguous and concise way

2. Positive Impoliteness

Ignore the other, exclude the other from an activity, be disinterested, unconcerned, and unsympathetic, seek disagreement, use taboo words, and call the other names/use derogatory nominations.

3.Negative Impoliteness

Frighten, condescend, scorn, ridicule, belittle, invade the other’s space

4.Off-Record Impoliteness

The Face Threatening Act (FTA) is performed by means of an implicative but in such a way that one attributable intention clearly outweighs any others.

5.Withhold Impoliteness

The absence of politeness work where it would be expected.

6.Sarcasm or mock politeness

The Face Threatening Act (FTA) is performed with the use of politeness strategies that are obviously insincere and thus remain surface realizations.


2.3.2                The impoliteness of swearing among younger generation

The statistics showed that people with the range of 18-34 visit Youtube regularly, with an average amount of 31.8 million users. (Blatbtbery, 2015). With reference to this demographic, the younger generation has a high probability to use swear words when interacting with each other. A claim made by Wright (2015), kids nowadays learn how to swears as early as 2 to 3 years old. This development exists through repeating the action made by people and the surroundings. Thus, when they reached the age of much older, they have already used swear words that are common to them. As they grow older, they began to use swear words drives by their emotion and feeling  According to Pack (2011), a study conducted showed that the use of profanity among students would most likely make them become more aggressive. The hypothesis made is that more youngsters are more exposed to profanity, the possibility of them using it would be particularly higher, this will make them become more impolite and aggressive towards other.


The impolitenesses of using swear words in digital communication would only lead to a complex effect that would not only be felt by one person but all of them. As we all know, the effect of language is depending on the culture and community itself. If any particular culture is revolving around the evolutionary of profanity, then most likely the people itself would commonly use the word without even think about how rude or impolite it would sound. For example, teenagers quote extracts from “South Park” or women talk about “emotional fuckwit Tage” after watching Bridget Jones’s Diary.This particular situation somehow shows in-group solidarity and common ground that the community shared (Brown & Gilman, 1960). The main concept of swear words is that the impoliteness of swear words itself would bring bad effects towards young generation and not only that, the practice of swear words does not fit with the older generation.


The gap between the environmental perception between the younger and older generation made it impossible for the older people to really understand this kind of practice that has been ingrain in the mind of the youngster. The intentions of using swear words among youngster nowadays particularly in digital communication are very disturbing because they mostly use it because of the social norm. This kind of situation would be hard to comprehend in the future as people begin to develop this mutual understanding that it is okay to curse as long as you are in the right context. People need to know that the rudeness and impoliteness of using curse words would bring a bigger impact on the revolution of people in the future.