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The Offensive Magic of Swearing

Author photo: Nigel Warburton, Cover Image: Oxford University Press
Oxford University Press

A good swear is like a bomb, shocking and offensive to all in the blast-radius. Except for those times when swears don’t quite go off. So, what’s the difference?  

Rebecca Roache is a philosopher who studies the social science of swearing. She explained to us how, in some ways, the power to swear isn’t granted by the speaker to herself, but by the people listening to her. That’s why the F-word in the mouth of a baby isn’t offensive but funny — because we don’t take the infant seriously, not in that way. That’s just one of the many surprising ways that swearing works. Rebecca Roache joins to talk about swearing, and to remind us that : it’s not the swears themselves that are offensive; it’s what we don’t say that’s meaningful.


Rebecca Roache | Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her book is called “For F*ck’s Sake: Why Swearing is Shocking, Rude, & Fun.” [Amazon|Bookshop].

Air date: Jan. 11, 2024 at 9 a.m. and Saturday, Jan. 13, at 11 a.m.

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