Vulgarisms - an effective tool of violence

Vulgarisms - an effective tool of violence

In the recent incidents related to the ruling of the Constitutional Tribunal on the protection of life at all its stages, the huge amount of vulgarisms used by demonstrators draws attention. Vulgar words and shouting were used to deliberately offend another person or group of people, in this case, Catholics and clergy, politicians, representatives of state authority, and the police. Using them is aimed at humiliating another person by verbal attacks exceeding the accepted norms of expression. On this occasion, it is worth paying attention to the progressive vulgarization of life, and above all of the culture: nowadays, vulgarisms are becoming common in cinematography, in theatre, literature, and visual arts, e.g. on billboards.

What are they used for? In the media discourse, as noted by Marta Olszewska [1], vulgarisms play many different roles. On the one hand, they are used to express the speaker's emotions, to name objects or states, but at the same time, they perform specific functions, e.g. evaluating, instrumental, and expressive. In the latter context, vulgarisms appear most often in the media and public space: they are not used to communicate a specific content, but to convey a certain emotional charge. In other words, their use in public communication is not semantic, but emotional: it is intended to reinforce the message. For many experts, e.g. prof. Bralczyk, they constitute a "linguistic handicap".

In the context of street protests of abortion supporters, vulgarisms are used instrumentally - their aim is to maximally escalate the emotions of demonstrators so that they do not control themselves and engage in behaviour that goes beyond normal. Proposing such slogans during protests is a planned action to provoke extreme behaviour that would otherwise be difficult to achieve. Profanity opens the way to transgressing the adopted code of behaviour in the public space. This is especially important when such profanity collides with the sphere of the sacred - in this way the lack of respect for what others confess is demonstrated. In the case of the events of Sunday, October 25, the use of profanity was also supposed to scare the faithful, so that they would not react to acts of profanation or vandalism.

It is worth remembering that this type of behaviour - because of its disastrous effects, and not only anti-aesthetic values ​​- is penalized due to undermining public morality:

Art. 141. Anyone who places an indecent advertisement, inscription or drawing in a public place, or uses indecent words, shall be subject to the penalty of restriction of liberty, a fine of up to PLN 1,500 or a reprimand.

The quoted article from the Code of Petty Offenses protects people staying in a public place, including minors, against violations of the socially acceptable canon of behaviour in the cultural and moral sphere.


Author: Dr. Agnieszka Brzezińska


[1] M. Olszewska, Wulgaryzmy w dyskursie medialnym, Linguistica Bidgostiana 2012.


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Autor: Laboratorium Wolności
Date: 29 October 2020
Financed from the Justice Fund, which is administered by the Minister of Justice
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