Monday, October 22, 2007

Something you never knew about swearing...


I guarantee it. Care of this Language Log post from 12 June 2004.


Money quote, from Matthew 5:12-22 (KJV):

21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
22 but I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Or as UPenn Linguistics Prof Mark Liberman explains, the olde timmey prohibition against calling someone stupid (including classifying it as a "swear word", which always scandalized me as a child) has a scriptural basis. Liberman indicates that "Raca" is the equivalent of a good-for-nothing; so insulting someone's reputation might have social consequences, but insulting someone's intelligence would have spiritual consequences. Interesting, since my gut feeling is that it should be the other way around (assuming the Powers That Be care when you cuss, which I doubt...)

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