Of all the languages in the world, why has English become the world’s lingua franca? Find out how English became the language of the global village.
In this section you’ll see how language has been used to wound, hurt, divide, oppress and dehumanize groups of people, with a particular focus on the way migrant peoples are described.
What makes a word offensive? Perhaps understandably, you may not study the language of insults too much at school! But studying language that cultures find offensive can tell you much about societies.
We have the ancient Greeks to thank for euphemism; to “eupheme” was to speak well of — or use words of good omen. On one hand, euphemisms are simply polite words that allow us to talk about things others may find offensive. But on the other, euphemisms can be used not just to soften the rough edges of life, but to conceal truth.
Societies have developed a plethora of words and expressions to deal with taboo subjects: either to avoid mentioning them at all, or to smooth the rough edges of reality. Religion was one of the first English taboos, but it certainly wasn’t the last. Take the subject of death – we’re very reluctant to use this powerful taboo word.