Monday, October 22, 2012

Diffusion of Swear Words in Japan

An article published last year in Physical Review E analyzes the diffusion of swear words in Japan. (This is not obvious from the abstract, so take a look at the .pdf file if you have institutional access to the journal.)

Here is a brief excerpt: The most beautiful example of Yanagita’s theory is the distribution of swear words. The Japanese are not known for their frequent use of swear words, but if you nevertheless are cursed at by someone with baka (∼stupid person), the one you are having trouble with is probably from Tokyo. If you instead hear aho (∼dumb), he or she is most likely from the Kyoto-Osaka area. The confrontation between these two swear words is so clear that it is considered by the people as a part of the competition between the two major cultural centers.

(Tip of the cap to Sang Hoon Lee.)

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