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EditorialsUp Front 11/03

Up Front 11/03

Students at the University of Exeter played a role in a piece of research recently that earned the researcher a Queen’s Prize. The prize, an annual award established in 1965 by Queen Elizabeth II, for research excellence in the field of English studies, went to Ruth-Maria Roth, a student of English language and literature at the University of Bonn. In preparing her dissertation on women’s use of swear words, Ruth-Maria interviewed more than 200 British students of both sexes to see how they would react to insults. She found that, although the male respondents hit back at hostile remarks more frequently than their fellow women students, those women who did go on the verbal counterattack tended to be far more hard-hitting and didn’t shrink from swearing. It’s unlikely the students were asked their opinion on the introduction of an increase in tuition fees, but they were confronted with eight different insult situations and asked to formulate how they would respond in each case. According to Ruth-Maria’s research, when a woman does choose to go on the offensive she doesn’t hold back. A quarter of women students came up with astounding language in their counter-insults. Worryingly, Roth’s supervisor at Bonn University’s English Department, Professor Dr. Klaus P. Schneider, commented that it was ‘the best paper ever to have landed on my desk’. Not least, he added, because the subject of ‘insults’ had so far been completely ignored in linguistics. Who’d have thought it?

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