The Dearth of Interaction about Taboo Themes between Swahili Males and Females: Is it Emanating from the Differences in Euphemisms Choice?

  • Lazaro Charles The Open University of Tanzania
  • Dunlop Ochieng, PhD The Open University of Tanzania
Keywords: Euphemism, Gender, Interaction, Swahili, Taboo
Share Article:


Swahili speakers confirm the presence of little interaction between males and females about taboo themes irrespective of the age of the interlocutors. The tendency is speculatively attributed to religion and patriarchy in society. However, a plausible cause, such as the difference in language use between males and females, had not been investigated before the current study. Consequently, the present study compared euphemism usage between Swahili male and female speakers on sex, sexual subjects, and other taboo subjects to correlate the communication tendencies and the amount of communication between the two genders. The tested null hypothesis was, “There is no significant difference in euphemism usage between male and female Swahili speakers." The t-test was based on data from 192 males and 192 females. The finding indicates that only three out of eleven taboo topics had gender-based discrepancies in the use of euphemisms among Swahili speakers. The result implies that the speech differences between males and females are not responsible for the shortfall of interaction about sensitive topics among Swahili speakers. In this regard, further correlational tests are suggested to establish the actual cause of this phenomenon which affects the welfare of society


Download data is not yet available.


Al-Haq, F., & Al-Smadi, M. (2020). Strategies of euphemism used by Jordanian university students. Jordan Journal of Modern Languages and Literatures, 12 (3), 359-380.

Al-Khasawneh, F. (2018). An intercultural study of euphemistic strategies used in Saudi Arabic and American English. Indonesian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 8(1), 217-225.

Al-Khawaldeh, R. (2014). Euphemism in Jordanian Arabic and British English. M.A. Thesis. Jadara University.

Allan, K., & Burridge, K. (2006). Forbidden words: Taboo and the censoring of language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Almeda, J. V., Capistrano, T. G., & Sarte, G. M. F. (2010). Elementary statistics. University of the Philippines Press.

Amoran, O. E., Onadeko, M. O. and Adeniyi, J. D. (2005). Parental influence on adolescent sexual initiation practices in Ibadan, Nigeria. International Quarterly of Community Health Education, 23, 73-81.

Ariesj E. J. (1982). Verbal and nonverbal behavior in single-sex and mixed-sex groups: Are traditional sex roles changing? Psychological Reports, 51, 127–134.

Cameron, D. (1997). Performing gender identity: Young men’s talk and the construction of heterosexual masculinity. In Johnson, S. and Meinfof, U. (eds), Language and masculinity (pp, 47–64). Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

Carli, L. L. (1989). Gender differences in interaction style and influence. Journal of Personality and social psychology, 56(4), 565–576.

Chambers, J. K., & Trudgill, P. (1998). Dialectology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Clifford, O. O., Luqman, B. S., & Amos, A. (2002). Parental characteristics and adolescent sexual behaviour in Bida local government area of Niger state, Nigeria. African Journal of Reproductive Health, 69(1), 95–106. PMID: 12476733

Crawford, M. (1995). Talking difference. London: Sage

Dilorio, C., Kelley, M., & Hockenberry-Eaton, M. (1999). Communication about sexual issues: Mothers, fathers, and friends. Journal of Adolescent Health, 24, 181–9.doi:10.1016/S1054- 139X (98)00115 – 3

Ekiyor, H. A. (2009). Corruption in local government administration: A historical summary as found in local government administration in Nigeria: Old and new vision.

Gao, G. (2008). Taboo Language in sex and the city: An analysis of gender differences in using taboo language in conversation. Kristianstad University. Retrieved from

Gupta, S., & Kumar, A. (2017). The human semen. In, A. Kumar & M. Sharma (Eds.), Basics of human andrology. Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. doi 10.1007/978-981-10-3695-8_11

Hadian, B. (2015). The effect of gender on speaking and use of taboos in B.A. level of EFL students at Khorasgan University, retrieved from,taboos%20in%20their%20conversation%20too.

Hasanah, U. N. (2021). Gender tendency towards the use of Acehnese taboo language: A case study of a university student. Skripsi thesis, UIN AR-RANIRY, Retrieved from

Heiss, J. S. (1962). Degree of intimacy and male-female interaction. Sociometry, 25, 197-208.

Hutchinson, M. K., & Cooney, T. M. (1998). Patterns of parent-teen sexual risk communication: Implications for intervention. Family Relations: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Applied Family Studies, 47(2), 185–194.

Hysi, E. (2011). Aspects of taboos and euphemisms in women's language. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, 45, 379–383.

Ihtiyorjon, H., & Sangcheol, L. (2021). Euphemism in English and Uzbek: Relevance-theoretic perspective. The Journal of Studies in Language 37(2), 227-238.

Jaccard, J., Dittus, P. J., & Gordon, V. V. (2000). Parent-teen communication about premarital sex: Factors associated with the extent of communication. Journal of Adolescent Research, 15(2), 187–208.

Kapron-King, A., & Xu, Y. (2021). A diachronic evaluation of gender asymmetry in euphemism. arXiv preprint arXiv:2106.02083.

Karimnia, A., & Khodashenas, M. R. (2016). Euphemistic strategies used by Iranian EFL learners: Death and lying-in focus: The Journal of Applied Linguistics and Applied Literature: Dynamics and Advances, 4(1), 63–80.

Keturi, S., & Lehmonen, T. (2012). Though shalt not write about…: A study of taboo content in Finnish EFL textbooks for upper secondary school, Unpublished Master’s Thesis, University of Jyväskylä.

Kusumah, C. M. (2019). Sexual euphemism expressed in pop and hip hop lyric songs: A pragmatic study. English Journal Literacy UTama, 3(2), 109-122.

Lakoff, R. (1977). You say what you are: Acceptability and gender-related language. In S. Greenbaum (Ed.), Acceptability in Language. De Gruyter Mouton.

Mabry, E. (1985). The effects of gender composition and task structure on small group interaction. Small Group Behavior, 16, 75-96

McGlone, M., & Batchelor, J. (2003). Looking out for number one: Euphemism and face. Journal of Communication, 53, 251–264.

Mofarrej, O. M., & Al-Haq, F. A. (2015). A sociolinguistic study of euphemistic death expressions in Jordanian Arabic. Arab World English Journal (AWEJ), 6(2), 110–130.

Namisi, F. S., Flisher, A. J., Overland, S., Bastien, S., Onya, H., Kaaya, S., & Aarø, L. E. (2009). Sociodemographic variations in communication on sexuality and HIV/AIDS with parents, family members and teachers among in-school adolescents: A multi-site study in Tanzania and South Africa. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 37(2), 65-74. doi: 10.1177/1403494808086986. PMID: 19493983.

Olimat, S. N. (2020). COVID-19 pandemic: Euphemism and dysphemism in Jordanian Arabic. GEMA Online Journal of Language Studies, 20(3), 268-290.

Piliavin, J. A., & Martin, R. R. (1978). The effects of the sex composition of groups on the style of social interaction. Sex Roles, 4, 281- 296.

Rosadi, I., Tiarina, Y., & Rosa, R. (2013). Differences in euphemisms used by males and females in Minangkabaunese. English Language and Literature E-Journal, 2(1), 121-131.

Stake, J. E. (1981). Promoting leadership behaviors in low-performance self-esteem women in task-oriented mixed-sex dyads. Journal of Personality, 49, 401-414.

Stapleton, K. (2003). Gender and swearing: A community practice. Women and Language, 26(2), 22–33.

Strodtbeck, E L., & Mann, R. D. (1956). Sex role differentiation injury deliberations. Sociometry, 29, 3-11.

Xia, X. (2013). Gender differences in using language. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 3, (8), 1485-1489

Zaiets, O. (2018). Relationship between gender and euphemism by Chinese students: Empirical study. Eurasian Union of Scientists, 11(56), 10–15.

Zelditch, M., Jr. (1955). Role differentiation in the nuclear family: A comparative study. In T. Parsons & R. E Bales (Eds.), Family socialisation and interaction process (pp. 307–352). New York: Free Press

9 June, 2023
How to Cite
Charles, L., & Ochieng, D. (2023). The Dearth of Interaction about Taboo Themes between Swahili Males and Females: Is it Emanating from the Differences in Euphemisms Choice?. East African Journal of Arts and Social Sciences, 6(1), 331-347.