3. Word categories to be considered

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3. Word categories to be considered

We will not enter into theoretical discussions about the classification of the elements which concern us. The inadequacy of linguistic theory to cope with many aspects of the spoken language (especially one word-phrases, holophrases) is well known. This inadequacy is to be regretted, but this is not the place for making suggestions even if we had valid suggestions to make.

On the whole we agree with Sornig (1986), and readers who are interested in theoretical aspects of the subject are referred to the first part of his article. We are fully aware that the categories used in the following list have been criticized by several previous writers on this topic. However our main aim in this article is to present material in Esperanto rather than to get bogged down in problems of classification.

For practical reasons this word list will be divided into the following categories:


Words used to address a person, or to describe an action, an object, or a situation, in an offensive manner.


Words or phrases used to express indignation, anger or similar sentiments, without addressing a specific person.

Taboo words

Words related to topics usually considered unsuitable for discussion in certain situations, particularly in formal settings.


Words used to avoid directly expressing insults, curses or taboo words, usually chosen because of similarity of sound.

Metaphors for taboo words

Words used to express a different meaning from the one apparently intended, as for instance when the word tool is used instead of penis.

The original study of the above categories in Esperanto (on which the present article is based) included several sections which touched on related areas of the language. These were interjections, onomatopoeic expressions, slang and compound expressions used as insults or curses. These have been omitted. However we will briefly discuss their treatment in Esperanto below.