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The Badness of Bad Words


Louis Foley

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Everybody knows-and feels as if he had always known-all the common "bad" words. We all know them because they have been very effectively taught. The things that we remember from our earliest years are the things connected with emotional experiences. The bad words make unforgettable first impressions, not only because typically they are uttered very distinctly and emphatically but because they are outbursts of strong feeling. Also from the beginning they are likely to be associated with startling incidents or confrontation with unpleasant people that would shock us anyhow. So they stick firmly in our memory, whether or not we ever come to use them ourselves. They will not come readily to the tongue of a person not habitually given to thinking in such terms. They will just not be part of the dialect he naturally speaks.

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