In his new book, The Stuff of Thought, Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker sorts through some of the paradoxes of profanity.
He points out that in a society that prides itself on free speech, certain words pertaining to sex and excretion remain off-limits.
Pinker says taboo words are particularly powerful for humans because they spark activity in the amygdala — a part of the brain involved in storing emotionally salient memories.
Steven Pinker, author of The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature; professor of psychology at Harvard University
Janet Coleman, arts director for WBAI radio