02007-10-15 | Writing | 3 comments

Steven Pinker, Rebecca Goldstein interview | Salon Books
Obviously, much of our thinking is being filtered through language. But it’s always seemed to me that there has to be an awful lot of thinking that’s done prior to the acquisition of language. And I often have trouble translating my thoughts into language. I think about that a lot. It often seems to me that the thoughts are there and some words are flitting through my mind when I’m thinking. So there’s something very separate between thinking and language.

Also see this:

The strange emotional power of swearing – as well as the presence of linguistic taboos in all cultures – suggests that taboo words tap into deep and ancient parts of the brain.


  1. yumiko

    Enjoyed reading, “Why We Curse, What the F***?”.

    The year I turned 50, I thought would be a great goal to see if I could give up swearing. I had enjoyed 40 years (approx.) of dedicated swearing and thought it would be easy. No, it was not. Swearing punctuates humor, adds to the flow of a conversation with friends, definitely produces more force when angry (like in martial arts) and heavily relies on volume.

    It reminds me of scent.

    Saturday, I threw a package of genmaicha in my friend’s mail box (they were not home). My friend arrives home, opens the package, takes a whiff of genmaicha and says, “What the hell is this?”, while her husband explains that is for him (he has stopped drinking coffee and is listening the message I left on their phone). I loved it.

    How does this relate? Fragrances should not be spritzed on heavily, nor closely sprayed near the skin. Scent/fragrances should be applied to produce a subtle, lightly lingering quality…the scent of tea reminds me of the same experience. The first experience of Chinese tea tasting is the scent: appreciating the aroma first. And what about swearing?

    Swearing can be heavy, and usually loud in sound/force. I seldom hear the words used in a light manner or softly (in tone). Maybe, it’s the technique…and maybe, it is not the idea that swearing is a bad habit: but how, when and how loud? On the same level, wearing a scent: how, when and how much/loud? All in the taste, all in the technique. How many times have I enjoyed a sentence punctuated with unexpected (the best kind) swearing when speaking with a friend. A memory of that conversation, just like scent.

    I only lasted from July 2005 to December 2005, not swearing…I think the religious/holiday shoppers/retail extravaganza created an inspiring time to start again.

  2. dave

    Yumiko, you lasted a hell of a lot longer than I would.

  3. yumiko

    Thanks, dave. That’s one hell of a compliment!
    (Actually, that’s not my style of swearing…but, I thought it appropriate to Ottmar’s post. )


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