Terms of abuse as expression and reinforcement of cultures

Jan P. van Oudenhoven, Boele de Raad, Francoise Askevis-Leherpeux, Pawel Boski, Geir S. Brunborg, Carmen Carmona, Dick Barelds, Charles T. Hill, Boris Mlačić, Frosso Motti, Beatrice Rammstedt, Stephen Woods

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this study terms of abuse are investigated in 11 different cultures. Spontaneous verbal aggression is to a certain extent reminiscent of the values of a certain culture. Almost 3000 subjects from Spain, Germany, France, Italy, Croatia, Poland, Great Britain, USA, Norway, Greece, and The Netherlands were asked to write down terms of abuse that they would use given a certain stimulus situation, and in addition, to give their rating of the offensive character of those terms. A total set of 12,000 expressions was collected. The frequencies of the expressions were established, and the total list of expressions was reduced to 16 categories. Results point to some etic taboos, like sexuality and lack of intelligence. On the other hand clear differences across cultures were found, which cannot easily be explained by existing classifications of national cultures. Explanations are provided in terms of dimensions on which the 11 cultures differ.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)174-185
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Intercultural Relations
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008


  • abuse terms
  • etics
  • emics
  • normative values
  • abuse across countries


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