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Freud and Foul Language

by David Yeagley · March 7, 2010 · 31 Comments ·

What is foul language? What is a bad word, and why is it bad?

People who have grown up in environments without language control often do not understand the very concept of good language and bad language. They seem to wonder at the hang-ups of those people who do not use foul language. Foul mouth people seem to feel superior to the neurotic types who act so offended when bad words are used. Law and political correctness, in a desperate media environment, are not enough to explain why there is such a thing as foul language and pure language.


Sigmund Freud, (1856-1939), who said, “Sometimes, a cigar
is just a cigar.”

The best explanation, in modern thought, comes from Sigmund Freud’s psychological theory. In many different published works, he offered a relatively simple account of the generation of linguistic hierarchy. Let’s begin with the infantile experience. (Keep in mind, Freud died in 1939.)

The very first aversion learned is related to a whack on the little behind, at birth, which rude awakening, theoretically, is never forgotten. The next aversion the infant learns is toward his own bodily wastes. The physical discomforts associated with offensive odors, and physical discomfort if the these bodily wastes are not removed from the infant’s body, are part of the initial creation of pain and pleasure complexes in the consciousness. Passing these wastes is essentially a pleasure, but, their presence is highly averse to any normal human being, at any age.

After the child lives twelve years or so, then something extraordinary happens, which is profoundly confusing to these learned and essentially natural aversions. The very bodily organs involved in waste elimination (urination) come to have an entirely different function–sex. In time, this new sexual function comes to be associated with the more intimate, desirable pleasures the human being can know. So, bodily speaking, where the child goes to the bathroom becomes the same place the young adolescent goes for intense human encounter of an acute bonding force. Whereas that which caused aversion and repulsion is now the basis of a unique bond. This paradox continues throughout life.

However, according the basic Freudian theory, the infantile and childhood impressions of aversion toward the original (and continual) functions of those very bodily organs remains, and finds expression in feelings, attitude, and finally language.

A simple examination of nearly each individual word which is regarded as foul, “four-letter,” or “bad,” will demonstrate clearly that the person using them is expression the original aversion to the organs and elimination of bodily waste.

The “f-bomb,” of course, is no doubt the most revealing of the double dimension of consciousness. It is at once used to express hatred and personal pleasure–both of aggressive nature, and in the extreme dimensions of human emotion. It is used to dismiss and to desire, to separate and to unite, to curse and to bless.

Foul phrases, like “kiss my —-” are obviously an overt recall of the original and painful whack on the rear end at birth. While people use such phrases to express profound denigration toward another person, the one who says such a thing is actually, according to Freudian theory, actually expressing a latent desire to have his bottom regarded with affection, rather than pain. When it is used to condemn a “brown noser,” it means to condemn the idea of doing the most self-degrating acts simply to please someone else.

As languistic analysis broadens, we find that there is a mix in all foul language. Generally, it is the use of bodily organs and functions to express disdain or denigration, but, nevertheless, it involves the pleasure principle as well.

Foul language is the perfect example of the paradoxes in the human mind. The unconcious expresses itself, continually, in the conscious. Now, according to Freud, we learn self-control. It isn’t natural. The libido, the raw energy of the psyche, would destroy itself rather quickly through unrestrained indulgence. Mayhem, cannibalism, and all the most immediate forms of consumption, are the libidic agenda, without rehearsal or instruction. The super ego, of course, is the composit of authority, what we are taught, what we pick up from our environment, as far as what we can or should do. The ego is simply the manager of the conflicts between the inner and the outer life. (The popular use, as in “He has a big ego,” is generally quite the misuse of the Freudian term; but, that’s the price of making refined thought public. Things get distorted quickly.)

Foul language is not healthy for the mind. Expression of such fundamental psychal aversion and its pleasure principle at the time makes for selfish, denigrating influence. It is obviously anti-social, and there is no benefit from it. It is not the expression of strength, power, or triumph, but rather the opposites. It is a cheap, cheating trick for influence, for impression, for power, and, at the very least (or best), it is a convenience. It quickly expresses disdain, but, even if foul language is habitual, it accomplished nothing. It is a psychal expenditure, with no actual profit at all.

Of course, those who feel most “guilty” about sex use the most foul language. Those who, according to Freud, think sex is actually dirty, or that sex is itself something foul, are those whose conscious psyche has the most leaks.

Notice, finally, that, for the most part, foul language is associate with those people of low social cast, who have never been around people with self-control, but rather have witnessed only dissapation, violent indulgence, and all other forms of human misery. No, they’re not fully conscious of any of this, really. Their habits were inherited.

However, the infantile oral/anal complex so obvious in “rap” and street language in general, has been made into an industry, and people of low social cast are not responsible for that. Those in higher positions of power have made a business of foul language, as well as foul behavior. Lower cast people have not been encouraged to evolve into better persons, or to develop better behavior. They have been paid to wallow in their own filth. This is, we can say, evil.

Sex is officially associated with frustration, aversion, and aggression. Sex is about prestige, achievement, even superiority now. This has become the professional approach, and even involves a racial element these days. Those in power are slaving the Negro as an animalistic Afro-disiac, as it were. It is all based on the natural human condition–the one condition which Hannah Arendt never addressed, but the one Sigmund Freud made fundamental.


Hannah Arendt, (1906-1975), on of the most influential
social philosophers of modern times, it is said.

Posted by David Yeagley · March 7, 2010 · 1:34 pm CT · ·

Tags: Bad Eagle Journal · Conservatism · Liberalism · Race




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31 responses so far ↓

  • 1 jo282271 // Mar 7, 2010 at 2:23 pm   

    Dr. yeagley, your last paragraph really spoke to me. As I walk my dog around my apartments I see white girls with black men all over the place. “What’s going on?” is what I continue to think to myself. could you maybe give me a detailed expaination of why so many white girls are damning themselves to a life of abuse and lonliness by sleeping with black men. Don’t they know that when they go out with, or live with, or marry a black man most white men will never want to have anything to do with them in the future? Is it just all about some sort of erotic sexual expierience they want to have or is there something more to it? give your opinion or some links to past articles that would explain this. Thank You

  • 2 David Yeagley // Mar 7, 2010 at 7:27 pm   

    Well, probably the most direct article I ever wrote about that particular subject is Tall, Dark, and Scary. This link is to an old form of the article, and it doesn’t have any links.

    However, the infantile aspect of foul language is certainly not limited to any particular race, culture, or ethnicity. I’ve noticed, too, how many common folk learning a new language, in the street, so to speak, are very quick to learn the vulgar expression, the swearing. This says a lot, I’m afraid.

  • 3 jo282271 // Mar 7, 2010 at 7:56 pm   

    I agree, I’ve noticed the use of foul language among most people now days. I find it very distasteful, and it seems to be getting to the point where now some people have no shame when cursing. It can also ruin a good conversation your having with a person when they start cursing. But your comment about people learning a new language can be most seen amongst the young hispanic population. Many of them don’t even realize what they’re saying is vulgar becuase their parents speak no english at all and cannot correct them. It’s disgusting.

  • 4 David Yeagley // Mar 7, 2010 at 10:30 pm   

    When I was in social work, back in Connecticut, I was a resident childcare worker for a while. I was in responsible for a dozen or so kids in a large house. One of the most basic rules of the house was about language. No foul language, no swearing, no four letter words, nothing like that was allowed. Everyone knew that the first line of defence, the first power of self-control, is over words. The first focus of psychological growth is control over one’s words and language.

  • 5 steve // Mar 8, 2010 at 9:00 am   

    Hmm, my impression is that this is way over analyzed. What is just plain crude is just crude… I found it interesting you did not mention the sin of taking the Lord’s name in vain but highlighted scatological theories instead.

  • 6 David Yeagley // Mar 8, 2010 at 9:50 am   

    Good point. This was on Freud’s take, though, which is quite ‘earthy.’ Probably, the name of the Lord, in vain, is the first abuse of any word.

    Funny, back at the children’s home, I don’t remember penalizing them for abuse of the Lord’s name. Only words like “hell,” “damn,” and the all the others. And the Lord’s name in vain is usually accompanied by other words…

    It is not likely to find a person taking the Lord’s name in vain who doesn’t use the other words, nor a person who uses foul language who also doesn’t take the Lord’s name in vain.

  • 7 Thrasymachus // Mar 8, 2010 at 4:45 pm   

    I certainly hope that this doesn’t provoke a silly argument!

    Among animals, some have clean habits, others unclean.

    One thing I admire about the house cat is that it is a clean animal. It is actually ashamed of its waste and hastens to bury it. My cat is actually embarrassed when I clean her litter box, if she happens to be present.

    Also cats wash themselves. In fact, washing can be, for a cat, an immediate reaction to mild stress, once the cause of such stress is removed. When the stressful situation passes or subsides, the cat will often immediately begin to wash itself. This act seems to afford great relief and relaxation to the cat.

  • 8 steve // Mar 8, 2010 at 5:51 pm   

    I like to call it grooming but not cleaning. Any animal that takes its dirt, no matter what it is, licks it off and ingests it is not really clean. A cat bite will also cause an infection faster than any other domestic animal.

  • 9 steve // Mar 8, 2010 at 5:53 pm   

    Of course Freud would call it hiding your inner-self or some such nonsense :)

  • 10 David Yeagley // Mar 8, 2010 at 6:09 pm   

    Fastidiousness in an animal…is there such a thing? No matter how artful the birdnest is, the chicks still live in their own poop.

    Also, in the animal kingdom, poop is a tell-all revelation. Certainly the urin is. Animals are in a brutal competition for survival. Scent is a critical factor, one way or another.

    Why domestic indoor cats try to hide their poop is a bit mysterious, I admit. No one is competing with them, really.

  • 11 Thrasymachus // Mar 8, 2010 at 6:31 pm   

    “A cat’s saliva contains a natural cleaning and deodorizing agent that helps to maintain his fur’s health and keep it fresh smelling.

    Depositing saliva on the coat has yet another interesting purpose. When cats scent themselves with their own saliva, it may relieve anxiety, offering a source of reassurance at tense moments. Cats appear to dispel fear, nervousness and pain by seemingly inappropriate or frantic grooming, much like human displacement behaviors such as nail biting or other nervous habits. Impromptu preening, for instance, often follows a domestic cat’s fall after a poorly timed jump.”

    Found here:

    http://lovecats4x.tripod.com/tipsnfacts.html

  • 12 Thrasymachus // Mar 8, 2010 at 6:49 pm   

    It is true that the female cat will urinate to attract the male at mating time.

    Spayed females do not exhibit this behavior, of course.

  • 13 Thrasymachus // Mar 8, 2010 at 7:17 pm   

    Just wondering, Dr. Yeagley. Was it by any chance John Wayne’s Plaboy interview that inspired you to write about foul language?

  • 14 David Yeagley // Mar 8, 2010 at 8:57 pm   

    No, sir. Just some continue instances of “language-challenged” posters on the forums… It drives me nuts. It is such a habit with some people. They grew up with it, and it seems really to mean nothing to them.

  • 15 Thrasymachus // Mar 8, 2010 at 9:11 pm   

    Interesting. I have long imagined that Hugh Hefner, a psychology major, was a disciple of Freud. But perhaps there is no direct relation between Freud’s theories and Hefner’s beliefs and the “Playboy philosophy.”

  • 16 David Yeagley // Mar 8, 2010 at 10:11 pm   

    Consider this: any kind of sexual relation between a man and woman, imaginary, partial, or complete, is adultery. In a sense, any woman posing pornographically is committing adultery with however many men look at that picture. It is an astounding thought.

    Hefner pays a lot of money for sophisticated writers, and tries to upgrade his denigrating profession. It’s sin, according to the Bible. Nothing but sin. Plain and simply.

    LInes are sometimes hard to draw, it seems, but, descretion is the key to harnessing energy. I never trust what a “sinner” says, as far as his sense of fulfillment and happiness. Rare is the man who admits his misery. After all, a man has over you only what you think he has over you. You know he’s going to lie about it, 9 times out of 10. He wants you to think he has it all. He’ll never, ever tell you how he really feels.

    Seared with a hot iron, his conscience is, according to St. Paul.

    Hey, I’m a sinner too, but, I fight it. Sin troubles me.

  • 17 David Yeagley // Mar 8, 2010 at 10:13 pm   

    Freud delt with patience who had overwhelming subconscious guilt connected with sexual experience. I don’t think he ever meant to advocate that all sex is wonderful, and everyone should enjoy it as much as possible. Obviously, his medical practice was based on the fact that that just isn’t true.

  • 18 Thrasymachus // Mar 9, 2010 at 11:44 am   

    “Freud dealt with patience who had overwhelming subconscious guilt connected with sexual experience. I don’t think he ever meant to advocate that all sex is wonderful, and everyone should enjoy it as much as possible.” — Dr. Yeagley

    Thing is, popular opinion has taken Freud to have meant just that.

    Liberal talk show host, Larry King, who is apparently a believer in Freud and certainly a huge fan of Hugh Hefner, said (and this is an exact quote taken from an online transcript):

    “Sex–why is it a sin to have sex if it’s so beautiful? . . . I mean outside of marriage, gay sex, outside of marriage sex. It’s a beautiful thing. Who does it harm?”

  • 19 Thrasymachus // Mar 9, 2010 at 12:07 pm   

    The Larry King transcript can be found here:

    http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0601/17/lkl.01.html

    Dr. Yeagley, you have studied Freud carefully, so I do not doubt that you have the correct interpretation of his theories.

    The problem, as is so often the case, is that popular opinion is wrong.

    This brings me to a question that has occurred to me, perhaps for the first time, just yesterday.

    If “democracy” can properly be called rule or government by popular opinion, is it likely to be the best form of government?

    I know that Plato, in the Republic, was opposed to the democracy of Ancient Greece, which had Socrates executed.

    But here what got me thinking:

    In Matthew 7:13, Jesus says:

    “”Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad the road which leads to ruin, and many there are who enter by it.”

    He contrasts the way of the many with the way of the few. Translate to modern politics: the way of the majority versus the way of the minority.

    If this verse can apply to politics (and I see no reason why it cannot), then mass democracy, unless in a Christian society, is following the popular opinion — the opinion of the majority — and is leading a nation to ruin!

    This is why I wish so many Republicans would take the time to read Alan Bloom’s translation of Plato’s Republic! Seems to me that the theory set out in that grand book is intended to cast doubt on the virtues of mass democracy.

    To work properly, a democracy needs an educational class that can instill good political thoughts and opinions into the masses. Therefore, in a sense, such a democracy is actually ruled by an educational class, rather than directly by the people.

    Whatever the case, Plato certainly stressed the need for “natural selection” — actually the result of passing successfully through many educational tests and trials — to ensure that the leaders of a nation would be philosophers, i.e., its wisest and most virtuous men and women.

    That is really the key to a successful government, and the basic problem to solve: How can a society ensure that only those who are trustworthy, wise, and virtuous hold the reins of political power?

  • 20 Thrasymachus // Mar 9, 2010 at 12:09 pm   

    Above, by “government,” I mean the system of government, the political power structure. The way the society is organized and run.

  • 21 Thrasymachus // Mar 9, 2010 at 12:33 pm   

    Here is an interesting page on cats — not sure that every statement is absolute fact — have read or experienced some opposing observations ;) :

    http://www.sniksnak.com/cathealth/whydo.html

  • 22 Thrasymachus // Mar 9, 2010 at 1:09 pm   

    Contrary to the perceived wisdom that cats NEVER come when called (except for meals), my experience has been otherwise. My last cat once was in the basement and I was in the attic and I called her name. She got all happy and excited and ran up two flights of stairs just to respond to my call. There was no selfish motive in this.

    My theory is that cat’s have extremely limited vocabularies and understand very little of human speech. (I think dogs excel them in this regard.) I think that sometimes they do not understand that they are being called — though I admit that this is just a guess on my part. I think that 95% of the time they do not even recognize their own name (unless you intone it in a special way)! It is more HOW you say things that helps the cat understand your meaning, less the words you use.

    I’ve visited in people’s homes and had their cats immediately make friends with me and behave towards me as though they’d know me all their lives. I think they are very keen on who likes and does not like them.

    Dogs want to make friends; dogs are followers. With cats, independent-minded creatures, you have to earn their trust with patient endeavor, and this usually takes three or four days of work and effort. But once gained, a cat’s friendship can be every bit as deep and loyal as that of any dog. Some cats can have astonishing empathy and concern for how a human friend is feeling.

    Almost all my experience has been with female cats only. So I cannot say for certain what is true of the male of the species.

  • 23 David Yeagley // Mar 9, 2010 at 2:52 pm   

    A man discovers something phenomenal. He generally does not have the disposition to keep it secret. In fact, if he really believes it’s the truth, he tends to want to broadcast it.

    This where error is almost inevitable. To make something public is to ask for metamorphosis, or distortion, or even contradiction. It’s called the free market if ideas, as they say.

    Freud’s theory first found application in psychoanalytic interpretations of great literature. It was academic. Freud became known in the university circle.

    It wasn’t until Hollywood picked up on it that it really became popular. Moves as early as 1942 involved Freudian thems. Pyschological struggles of people, individuals, all came out in movie after movie. Freudian understanding of human behavior has usurped the Judeo-Christian jargon, really, certainly in media conversation.

    At Yale, clinical psychology courses were required for preparation for the ministry. I remember a certain number of hours were required by certain demoninations. I never took any of these courses. I did my own reading, however.

  • 24 Thrasymachus // Mar 9, 2010 at 4:18 pm   

    A book on the subject of the affinity of psychology to religion that might interest you is “The Return to Religion” by Henry C. Link, originally published in 1936.

  • 25 David Yeagley // Mar 9, 2010 at 5:52 pm   

    Psychology has always been in professional competition with the pastorate. However, the church seems to have co-opted the best of psychology, or so they think.

    The problem is, psychology doesn’t change anything. The phenomenon of the “confession,” the talking out of the deepest, buried wounds, that is the secret of opening the door to change. That’s all. Of course, that all falls short of bearing one’s guilt before the Lord, and bowing at the bloody feet of Jesus. Takes a real man to do that!

  • 26 Thrasymachus // Mar 9, 2010 at 7:13 pm   

    “Of course, that all falls short of bearing one’s guilt before the Lord, and bowing at the bloody feet of Jesus. Takes a real man to do that!”

    Agreed. This is the most effective healing. Carl Jung asserted that no one over 35 was ever cured without finding a true religious outlook on life.

    The book by Dr. Link stresses the importance of service — of doing things one particularly dislikes as a method of strengthening the personality.

    Also, from my personal experience, I have found hypnosis (professional hypnotic recordings) to be very therapeutic — if taken right before falling asleep at night, as one should be languorous or very sleepy for greatest effectiveness. This influences the dreams to come in the night, and dreaming itself can be highly therapeutic, when directed to a purpose.

    I do not know if Freud figured out that dreams in themselves could also simply be “Nature’s therapy,” but I know of a Freudian clinical psychologist who considers them such.

  • 27 David Yeagley // Mar 9, 2010 at 7:34 pm   

    Freud said that dreams were simply the very disguised release of sexual energy (not necessarily erotic). Tension, anxiety, fear, etc., high energy resolution.

    This is where Freud and Jung part company, on the interpretation of dreams. I don’t know if you’ve a mind to get into that…

  • 28 Thrasymachus // Mar 9, 2010 at 7:45 pm   

    I know that Jung was interested in the “I Ching,” an ancient Chinese book of symbolism that was considered part of the universal subconscious.

    The hypnotic recordings I spoke of reverse the process; that is, they use dream symbols to prepare or “program” the subconscious mind for the dreams of the night, for therapeutic purposes.

    This hypnotic process is called “guided imagery,” and is used in a form a therapy called “Biogram Theory.”

    I just “Googled” the very subject and this article popped up (this is not my writing):

    http://redcairo.blogspot.com/2008/09/biogram-theory.html

  • 29 Thrasymachus // Mar 9, 2010 at 8:24 pm   

    I can see that the article wasn’t written well, scientifically speaking. Actually, there’s a book written on the subject of “Biogram Theory,” and it probably is more intelligible than that amateur article. In any event, this theory is a further development of Freudian ideas, using biofeedback and hypnosis and dream symbolism to find and recover the painful memories that are assumed to be causing emotional distress in one’s present life. It is basically similar to Freudian “free association,” only using more specific, direct techniques. It involves the interpretation of dreams as well.

  • 30 David Yeagley // Mar 9, 2010 at 9:18 pm   

    Jung thought dreams revealed parts of a universal Collective Unconcious, from which all human consciousness has evolved, or devolved, I should say. Kaballistic? A bit. In any case, Jung connected it all to the occult, in the most objective sense. Freud eschewed such association, but said the sexual theory alone would guard interpretations of dreams from ending up in the black tide of occultism.

  • 31 Thrasymachus // Mar 10, 2010 at 12:09 pm   

    Thank you, sir, for the information you provide on Jung.

    I’m currently reading “The Story of Psychology” by Morton Hunt, so I hope to learn more soon of the things of which you speak. :)

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