Uses and Abuses

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  • While not everyone approves of "'bad" words, in this program Stephen Fry learns that profanity plays an important role in human communication. Fry undergoes an MRI scan to find the part of the brain associated with swearing, and meets a stroke patient and a person with Tourette syndrome, both of whom say they can't help using the F-word. Topics include swearing to relieve pain (with Brian Blessed); the power of bad words in humor and social interactions (with Armando Iannucci, Stephen K. Amos, and Omid Djalili); the use of double entendres and euphemisms to hide true meanings; and how slang and jargon ultimately add to the richness of language.


  • Encoded with permission for digital streaming by Films Media Group on February 03, 2013.
  • Films on Demand is distributed by Films Media Group for Films for the Humanities & Sciences, Cambridge Educational, Meridian Education, and Shopware.
  • Mode of access: Internet.
  • System requirements: FOD playback platform.
  • Closed-captioned.


  • Obscenities and Taboos (4:00) -- Tourette's Disorder and Obscenities (3:58) -- Swearing and the Primitive Brain (4:29) -- Swear Words Live On (2:25) -- Rude Words and Emotions (1:13) -- Association between Swearing and Pain (3:22) -- How Swearing Lessens Pain (5:16) -- Swearing and Humor (4:34) -- Racial and Sexual Epithets (6:08) -- Danger of Euphemisms (3:28) -- Little White Lies: Politeness (3:06) -- Language and Context (3:45) -- Disguised Speech (4:37) -- Hip Hop as Source of Language (6:17) -- Credits: Uses and Abuses: Fry's Planet Word (0:35)
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