Social constraints impose a censorship on anything that might cause discomfort, harm, or injury in a community, and language is among those behaviours that need to be monitored for this reason (Gao 2013); indeed, the belief that words hold a strong controlling power over people, objects, and spirits dates back to ancient times. Linguistic taboos often have to do with illness and death, blasphemy, money, racism, sex and sexuality, and private parts of the body: this paper proposes to focus specifically on English vocabulary concerning female anatomy and its representation in lexicography, a topic which has always been soaked with social stigma and treated with great anxiety and embarrassment. The investigation will be carried out by examining the Oxford English Dictionary: though initially the first edition was celebrated for its proclaimed scientific principles and objectivity, research has already commented upon its many biases and culturally-determined (and, therefore, subjective) choices, which include prescriptivism on rude words (Mugglestone 2007 and Brewer 2010), but also issues and debates involving gender (Baigent et al. 2005; Mugglestone 2013; Turton 2020). The diachronic analysis, which takes into consideration both the three different editions of the dictionary and the evolution of taboo words in time, will focus on how such headwords as vagina, breast, or menstruation have been defined in the OED and how strategies like euphemism (sweet talking) or dysphemism (speaking offensively) have been used to avoid mentioning them (Allan and Burridge 2006). Thus, results will show how the censoring of language produces (socio)linguistic change and promotes the creation of highly inventive and playful new expressions; the focus on female anatomy will specifically shed light on the culture(s) that enforce the use of taboo words and the ideologies behind their inevitably selective and subjective representation in lexicography.

Forbidden words and female anatomy: linguistic taboos in the Oxford English Dictionary / M. Guzzetti. ((Intervento presentato al convegno Taboo Conference series : Taboo in Language, Culture and Communication tenutosi a Roma : September 28 – 30 nel 2022.

Forbidden words and female anatomy: linguistic taboos in the Oxford English Dictionary

M. Guzzetti
2022

Abstract

Social constraints impose a censorship on anything that might cause discomfort, harm, or injury in a community, and language is among those behaviours that need to be monitored for this reason (Gao 2013); indeed, the belief that words hold a strong controlling power over people, objects, and spirits dates back to ancient times. Linguistic taboos often have to do with illness and death, blasphemy, money, racism, sex and sexuality, and private parts of the body: this paper proposes to focus specifically on English vocabulary concerning female anatomy and its representation in lexicography, a topic which has always been soaked with social stigma and treated with great anxiety and embarrassment. The investigation will be carried out by examining the Oxford English Dictionary: though initially the first edition was celebrated for its proclaimed scientific principles and objectivity, research has already commented upon its many biases and culturally-determined (and, therefore, subjective) choices, which include prescriptivism on rude words (Mugglestone 2007 and Brewer 2010), but also issues and debates involving gender (Baigent et al. 2005; Mugglestone 2013; Turton 2020). The diachronic analysis, which takes into consideration both the three different editions of the dictionary and the evolution of taboo words in time, will focus on how such headwords as vagina, breast, or menstruation have been defined in the OED and how strategies like euphemism (sweet talking) or dysphemism (speaking offensively) have been used to avoid mentioning them (Allan and Burridge 2006). Thus, results will show how the censoring of language produces (socio)linguistic change and promotes the creation of highly inventive and playful new expressions; the focus on female anatomy will specifically shed light on the culture(s) that enforce the use of taboo words and the ideologies behind their inevitably selective and subjective representation in lexicography.
female anatomy; taboo language; gender; Oxford English Dictionary; lexicography.
Settore L-LIN/12 - Lingua e Traduzione - Lingua Inglese
Forbidden words and female anatomy: linguistic taboos in the Oxford English Dictionary / M. Guzzetti. ((Intervento presentato al convegno Taboo Conference series : Taboo in Language, Culture and Communication tenutosi a Roma : September 28 – 30 nel 2022.
Conference Object
File in questo prodotto:
Non ci sono file associati a questo prodotto.
Pubblicazioni consigliate

Caricamento pubblicazioni consigliate

I documenti in IRIS sono protetti da copyright e tutti i diritti sono riservati, salvo diversa indicazione.

Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/2434/939069
Citazioni
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.pmc??? ND
  • Scopus ND
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.isi??? ND
social impact