Swearing, cursing, coprophenomena A continuum?

Tobias A. Wagner-Altendorf, Veit Roessner, Thomas F. Münte*

*Corresponding author for this work


In healthy individuals, expletive language occurs as swearing/cursing, in patients with Tourette syndrome as coprolalia. Swearing and coprolalia thus have been likened as two ends of a continuum. Both occur apparently automatically, are triggered by emotional activation, e. g., by stress or pain, and are typically instantiations of nonpropositional language. Neurobiologically, a thalamo-cortical-limbic dysfunction is discussed. However, there are notable differences between the two: While swearing fulfi lls intra- A nd inter-individual functions coprolalia seems less functional and can result in considerable social stigma because of their occurrence in socially inappropriate situations. Patients with coprolalia report antecedents, especially feelings of urge and premonitory sensations, like itches or tingles. Finally, coprolalia seems to extend to more serious and insulting expressions compared to "everyday" swearwords.

Original languageEnglish
JournalZeitschrift fur Neuropsychologie
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)250-255
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 12.2019

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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