Though swear words appear to be the most malicious insults, they no longer encompass much meaning since they are overused. Words that are typically deemed as less hurtful can hurt the most if they uncover an apparent insecurity.
Frustration and profanity go hand-in-hand. Swearing to vent is quite common; so common that swear words almost seem to lose their power. Because they are wildly overused, these words have also lost some of their meaning and gravity. Yet, when someone that normally chooses to avoid this slanderous vocabulary resorts to a curse word, it becomes more powerful. Simply put, the less curse words are used, the more meaning they have. If your grandmother drops the f-bomb at a Thanksgiving dinner, it would hold a hell of a lot more meaning than if your “thug” brother casually swears while he sits on the couch doing nothing particularly important with his life. When that previously untouched word is uttered for the first time, it is full of untapped potential and everyone is put slightly off their stride.
This umbrella of redundancy covers other, nontraditional profanity that are free to remain without a censor, but somehow manage to strike deeper than any other word can hope to. Words like “coward” strike a chord deep inside and are hurtful when uttered because there is an implication that there is a true grudge; one that is true enough for one to reach deep and find something so nastily uncommon. Being called a liar can hurt depending on who utters it, but being called a disgrace to the society you belong to or told you are absolutely worthless feels more like an attack on character. The slur “harlot” borders the line of curse word territory, yet that may be because such a word is dedicated to only the most dire circumstances. Many people would not even reach the level of insult required to dredge up such a vehement offense. The amount of hate and vitriol in these words makes them what they are. When used in conjunction with tone, these words evoke a deeper sense of pain, much stronger than what they originally intended to. A voice laced with scorn and layered with disgust drives home a point just as powerfully as word choice.
Of all the words that are in any way debilitating in nature, the ones that contain a ring of truth are the worst. Some words may seem worse to me than they do to you simply because on some deep, dark and secret level, I am terrified that they are true. The words prey on our insecurities and gently prick our secret fears until our very character is questioned. Not many wish to be called “average” when it comes to something that they are deeply passionate or secretly vain about. We fear that we truly are worthless and that our lives will not matter in the grand scheme of things. An unkind word underscored with the truth makes us question our abilities and is far worse than any profane language we may encounter.