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I've noticed that pretty much all swear words or profane language contains one or more fricatives, and sometimes plosives.

Without listing words, if you can think of the first ten swear words that come to mind, they will almost invariably contain hard-ts, hard-ks, hard-gs, etc. Even if they're not in English, this is the norm. I've found there are less examples of fricatives/plosives in French profanity, however.

What is the psychology behind fricatives? Are some words offensive strictly because of meaning or also because of linguistics? When we hear a fricative, does our brain have some inclination to believe it's profane? If I make up some fake words containing fricatives, some of them potentially sound obscene, but this is a subjective test.

Obscenities do change over time, with new words coming about quite often, but they almost invariably contain fricatives. Why is this?

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    Fricatives and plosives taken together (s, z, f, v, sh, ʒ, θ, ð, h, b, d, g, p, t, k) make up about, what, 60% of English consonant phonemes… so that's not really all that strange, I'd say. Most words would tend to contain either a plosive or a fricative in English, not just most swear words. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 14 '13 at 18:28
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    Plosives (stops) and fricatives are 64% of the English consonant inventory. That gives you, what, a 13% chance that your random CvC won't have at least one. – StoneyB on hiatus Nov 14 '13 at 18:29
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    If we were hardwired to find these sounds offensive, wouldn’t you expect polite, nice, friendly, and so on to eschew them? As the previous comments imply, the question as phrased doesn’t obviously have a firm empirical basis. – Daniel Harbour Nov 14 '13 at 19:18
  • This wouldn't explain the Hawaiian terms "launa'ana," "ai," "ei," "ule," "'ilio wahine," and "wa'wau," though, would it? – Sven Yargs Nov 14 '13 at 19:39
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Earlier comments (as shown next) indicate that the mentioned phonomenon is not statistically unlikely.

Fricatives and plosives taken together (s, z, f, v, sh, ʒ, θ, ð, h, b, d, g, p, t, k) make up about, what, 60% of English consonant phonemes… so that's not really all that strange, I'd say. Most words would tend to contain either a plosive or a fricative in English, not just most swear words. – Janus Bahs Jacquet

Plosives (stops) and fricatives are 64% of the English consonant inventory. That gives you, what, a 13% chance that your random CvC won't have at least one. – StoneyB [13% is from the calculation (1-x)·(1-x) with x=0.64]

However, the wikipedia article Sound Symbolism has some comments (in sections Clustering, Iconism, and Phenomimes and psychomimes) that superficially cover the topic and mention relationships that go beyond mere chance, and references (such as Jakobson et al, The Sound Shape of Language) that provide more detail.

Not entirely unrelated is the bouba/kiki effect which (broadly speaking) associates sharp figures with the plosive k and rounded ones with b.

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