Censorship and Taboo Maintenance in L1 and LX Swearing

Kristy Beers Fägersten, Karyn Stapleton, Minna Hjort

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Downloads (Pure)


In this paper, we consider the censorship of public swear word usage as a function of, and continued maintenance of, taboo with a focus on L1 and LX swearing and its management. In research with multilingual speakers, first-language swear words are consistently perceived as more taboo, and thus more emotional/powerful than equivalent words from a second or third language. While the public use of English-language swear words may be subject to censorship in Anglophone contexts, it is not censored to the same extent in LX contexts. On the other hand, L1 swear words are censored. Such perceptions of differences in strength between one’s L1 and LX languages also seem to affect the work of language professionals: translators’ tendency to self-censor may at least in part be explained by this bias. The existence of a two-tier system of swearing and censorship serves to reinvigorate L1 swear words, while diminishing the power of English swear words. We thus examine how censorship works as a means of maintaining and/or attenuating taboo, potentially moderating the power of swearing itself in cross-linguistic and multilingual contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Article number128
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
Issue number4
Early online date1 Apr 2024
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 by the authors.


  • Swearing
  • taboo
  • censorship
  • multilingualism
  • L1
  • LX
  • Media
  • translation
  • swedish
  • Finnish
  • swearing
  • media
  • Swedish


Dive into the research topics of 'Censorship and Taboo Maintenance in L1 and LX Swearing'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this