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Profanity, speech origins, and brain wiring

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Postby gailr » Wed Jan 25, 2006 10:24 pm

I can't access your original article, Henri, but I think Allan Shermanwould have agreed with the premise of your thread topic. He wrote, "Even if we could successfully eradicate the word [*], erase it from all literature and memory, there would be a swarm of potential dirty words waiting to take its place. The wicked little devil who dwells inside every puritan mind cannot exist without dirty words; so, when it finds itself out of dirty words, it makes up new ones out of formerly clean words. The id operates automatically, and a new obscenity is created instantaneously. You can prove this yourself."

He also commented on the Comstock Law and other similar attempts to protect adult citizens from a fate worse than death. "In 1970 a live drama opened in a small Hollywood theater. It was called An Evening of Dirty Plays. (Actually the plays weren't; the producers and authors thought they might catch a few extra theater lovers with this title.) The Times refused to print an ad for the play, contending that the word dirty is dirty. ... the Los Angeles Times offered...a compromise solution...An Evening of Clean Plays. ... Of course, it didn't sell any rickets. In America, nobody wants to see an evening of clean plays."
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Postby KatyBr » Wed Jan 25, 2006 11:41 pm

The word dirty is suggestive, not dirty. But suggestive is bad eh?

Kt
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Postby Apoclima » Thu Jan 26, 2006 5:00 pm

For those who missed this "gem," (apparently it was only accessible for a short time at the NYT site Henri linked to) here is the article on another website:

Almost Before We Spoke, We Swore

Evidence also suggests that cursing can be an effective means of venting aggression and thereby forestalling physical violence.


My personal experience and understanding is that cursing is a effective means of causing aggression and instigating physical violence.

Indeed, chimpanzees engage in what appears to be a kind of cursing match as a means of venting aggression and avoiding a potentially dangerous physical clash.


Is there no end to this sort of anthropomorphization?

Simply venting your anger doesn't solve the problem; in fact, it will usually reinforce tired old patterns in a relationship and maintain the status quo, according to psychologist Harriet Lerner. Sometimes it helps to just vent some anger (without being abusive), but it usually guarantees that nothing will change.


Managing Anger Effectively

On the other hand, the old idea that you should simply "vent" or "let it all out" is discouraged by conflict experts, who claim that doing so is actually counterproductive, "an exercise in rehearsing the very attributions that arouse anger in the first place."


What Is Anger?

Apo
'Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination.' -Max Planck
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Postby Stargzer » Thu Jan 26, 2006 7:24 pm

Apoclima wrote: . . .
Evidence also suggests that cursing can be an effective means of venting aggression and thereby forestalling physical violence.


My personal experience and understanding is that cursing is a effective means of causing aggression and instigating physical violence.


Depends.

If someone cuts you off in traffic, casting aspersions upon the other driver's parentage can ameliorate your tensions without "causing aggression and instigating physical violence" if said driver has moved on and is without earshot.



Indeed, chimpanzees engage in what appears to be a kind of cursing match as a means of venting aggression and avoiding a potentially dangerous physical clash.


Is there no end to this sort of anthropomorphization?


Even dogs usually growl and bark at each other before attacking.

Simply venting your anger doesn't solve the problem; in fact, it will usually reinforce tired old patterns in a relationship and maintain the status quo, according to psychologist Harriet Lerner. Sometimes it helps to just vent some anger (without being abusive), but it usually guarantees that nothing will change.


Managing Anger Effectively

On the other hand, the old idea that you should simply "vent" or "let it all out" is discouraged by conflict experts, who claim that doing so is actually counterproductive, "an exercise in rehearsing the very attributions that arouse anger in the first place."


What Is Anger?

Apo


Again, it depends. Venting to a waiter or a cook at a restaurant would not be my first choice at conflict resolution unless I'd already eaten or were leaving before eating.
Regards//Larry

"To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them."
-- Attributed to Richard Henry Lee
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Postby gailr » Thu Jan 26, 2006 9:17 pm

Stargzer wrote:
Apoclima wrote:
Indeed, chimpanzees engage in what appears to be a kind of cursing match as a means of venting aggression and avoiding a potentially dangerous physical clash.


Is there no end to this sort of anthropomorphization?
Apo

Even dogs usually growl and bark at each other before attacking.



1. A quote within a quote within a quote, successfully quoted! Of such small triumphs are happy evenings made.

2. When pet #2 runs out of the room after being scolded--again--for doing something which he knows very well is forbidden in this house (it doesn't matter whether he understands why it is forbidden, or agrees, only that he complies!) he looks over his shoulder and emits in-trouble-context-specific mewl/growls. Is he swearing at me? I do not know. But I am completely confident that in these instances he is not expressing his respect, admiration, or gratitude for living here... He can cuss all he likes, as long as he gets his bad self down from the counter, dammit!!!

gailr :lol:
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Postby tcward » Fri Jan 27, 2006 10:39 am

I'm always curious exactly what my cat is saying as he emits a mumbled mew, hurrying out the front door when I command him to leave.

-Tim
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Postby KatyBr » Fri Jan 27, 2006 1:43 pm

he's NOT saying 'thanks', trust me.
When pet #2 runs out of the room after being scolded--again--for doing something which he knows very well is forbidden in this house (it doesn't matter whether he understands why it is forbidden, or agrees, only that he complies!) he looks over his shoulder and emits in-trouble-context-specific mewl/growls. Is he swearing at me? I do not know. But I am completely confident that in these instances he is not expressing his respect, admiration, or gratitude for living here... He can cuss all he likes, as long as he gets his bad self down from the counter, dammit!!!


animals do get embarrassed, they have very expressive tails and eyes. But the growling HAS to go. Not allowed in my home. and they Know it too. GRRRRR, only I may growl, and do. :twisted: heh heh heh.

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Postby Stargzer » Fri Jan 27, 2006 2:36 pm

Speaking of pets and their foibles, check out last Sunday's edition of For Better or for Worse. Parents everywhere will be familiar with the mother's last line. :wink:

Canada does some things right, eh? :lol:
Regards//Larry

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Postby Apoclima » Sun Jan 29, 2006 8:52 pm

Certainly I am not going to tell anyone that animals do not have emotions and do not express emotions, even beyond and behind the expected emotive projection of pet-owners and field biologists, what I am saying is that speech (including cursing) and the conceptual thought entailed by such is something that animals do not have.

A central issue in comparative studies of animal communication and human language concerns the attribution of mental states. One function of language is to influence the behavior of others by changing what listeners know, think, believe, or desire. By contrast, while animal vocalizations can be elicited by a wide variety of stimuli and often function to alter the behavior of listeners, there is no evidence that callers take into account their audience's mental state when producing vocalizations. Similarly, listeners' responses seem governed primarily by learned behavioral contingencies rather than any appreciation of signalers' motives or beliefs (reviewed by Cheney & Seyfarth 1996; Seyfarth & Cheney 2003).


The use of vocalizations in social interactions

The special faculties [math, art, humor, etc.] we have been discussing clearly point to the existence in man [sic] of something which he has not derived from his animal progenitors--something which we may best refer to as being of a spiritual essence or nature, capable of progressive development under favourable conditions. On the hypothesis of this spiritual nature, superadded to the animal nature of man, we are able to understand much that is otherwise mysterious or unintelligible in regard to him, especially the enormous influence of ideas, principles, and beliefs over his whole life and actions. Thus alone we can understand the constancy of the martyr, the unselfishness of the philanthropist, the devotion of the patriot, the enthusiasm of the artist, and the resolute and persevering search of the scientific worker after nature's secrets. Thus we may perceive that the love of truth, the delight in beauty, the passion for justice, and the thrill of exultation with which we hear of any act of courageous self-sacrifice, are the workings within us of a higher nature which has not been developed by means of the struggle for material existence.


Darwinism- Wallace

Apo
'Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination.' -Max Planck
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Postby KatyBr » Sun Jan 29, 2006 9:05 pm

APO, I agree there is nothing to be gained by all this anthropomorphizing. Animals need to stay in their place, by golly.

:lol:

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Postby gailr » Sun Jan 29, 2006 11:38 pm

Did you mean the "lower animals" need to stay in their place (not sure what/where that is, between domestication and dwindling wild areas) since this board is posted by members of Animalia...

Anthropomorphization does serve one useful function: reinforcing "humane" behavior. Those members of H. sap sap who do not perceive their fellow creatures as having emotions or the ability to feel pain have little compunction about meting out cruelty, at any level of the taxonomic chain, regardless of whether the recipients intellectualize about their situations or curse their tormentors. (Any naturally "amoral" members of the animal kingdom which might be cited for intrinsically "cruel" behaviour here would not be considered among its most sentient.)

-gailr
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Postby KatyBr » Sun Jan 29, 2006 11:55 pm

oh, wait, wait, wait, I was making a joke. I'm not for anthropomorphizing, but I know animals have emotions, as I mentioned on earlier posts in this threads, but cursing? I'm not on that bandwagon. I think that was what APO was saying too.

Easy there Hoss, no one was downing the "lower' animals.

Kt
I've never been cruel to a single animal, unless you count mice......they MUST die!
this is not me or APO, sorry the picture didn't come thru' it was a most emailed pic of a dog in china, hung up to sell as meat.
Last edited by KatyBr on Tue Jan 31, 2006 5:37 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Apoclima » Tue Jan 31, 2006 5:00 pm

gailr:
Anthropomorphization does serve one useful function: reinforcing "humane" behavior.


I do not see the need to anthropomorphize animals in order to reinforce humane behavior. Animals should be treated humanely just because they are animals, not because we see ourselves in them.

Certainly I am less concerned about insects than I am about reptiles, and less concerned about reptiles than I am about mammals.

I swat mosquitos and flies, but I don't pull their wings or legs off. I usually carry spiders and bees outside, but am less likely to give a wasp a break, if things get complicated.

And certainly one cannot let one's house become over run with ants or termites (or mice or rats, for that matter).

I do agree that an attitude of respect should be given to animals, and we surely should not find pleasure in tormenting them.

Yes, animals should be viewed as beautiful and sacred, but their lives are not on a par with human life.

And, yes, with our pets we tend to humanize them, which is hardly avoidable if we love them.

Anyway, my point really was that I don't think that the anthropomorphization of animals is any way to study them scientifically.

"Animals are clearly not machines, but neither are they slightly diminished human beings. Intellectual understanding is not found in any degree in any animal but man. The human capacity to understand the what and the why of things is unique in the animal kingdom. With respect to this faculty, man is different in kind from animals, not in degree. The difference between apes and other animals is one of degree, since they possess the same kinds of powers to a greater or less extent. But a greater gap separates man from ape than that which separates any two other natural creatures. (Augros, Robert [philosopher] & Stanciu, George [physicist], "The New Biology: Discovering the Wisdom in Nature", New Science Library, Shambhala: Boston, MA, 1987, p.82. Emphasis in original).


A study of The Lion King is not a scientific study of African animals.

Apo
'Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination.' -Max Planck
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Postby KatyBr » Tue Jan 31, 2006 5:34 pm

Apoclima wrote:
Anyway, my point really was that I don't think that the anthropomorphization of animals is any way to study them scientifically.

"Animals are clearly not machines, but neither are they slightly diminished human beings.


A study of The Lion King is not a scientific study of African animals. hahahahahaha

Apo

Thank you APO, well said, and just right. People who go all gooey over someone else's mistreatment of an animal* (not to say there aren't awful examples) yet feel human beings come in second best or not noble compared to any animal trait are inconprehensible to me. Animals have one, maybe two, motivations, to survive and procreate, one hopes we are a bit more complicated. Pets have theluxury of playing even as adults.



*in Seattle people are allowed by law to break into someone else's car if a dog is "in distress" in it. I over heard someone complaining about my dog in my car, whose favorite activty was to jump from seat to seat barking maniacally. I said loudly that my dog was fine, all the windows were open and a truely distressed dog hides under the seat. The law gave permission to anthropomorphize animals with no knowledge of the truth.

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Postby tcward » Tue Jan 31, 2006 7:18 pm

On a general note, any story that disregards science is hardly memorable.

And on a lighter note, just yesterday my youngest (age 4) told us that our cat was praying when he purred -- apparently he appeared to be in relaxed meditation as he lounged on our sofa.

-Tim
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