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I am wondering what exactly the Issur of Nivul Peh is predicated on.

Is it:

  1. That such words shouldn't be spoken from a person's mouth; or

  2. That its a cause of chillul Hashem if someone sees a Jew saying something like that (and if someone speaks a different language it would only be a problem in the first part); or

  3. That the one it is directed to (if it was directed at someone) will be embarrassed;

Or is it a combination of them (or maybe there's a completely different reason, in which case, drop me a line)?

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Um, dupe? (And mine, too, I guess?) – Seth J Aug 3 '12 at 2:54
up vote 2 down vote accepted

The case of nivul peh that the Gemara gives is about talking about sensitive matters in an explicit and obscene way. In the words of the Gemara (Shabbos 33a):

הכל יודעין כלה למה נכנסה לחופה אלא כל המנבל פיו אפי' חותמין עליו גזר דין של שבעים שנה לטובה הופכין עליו לרעה

All know for what purpose a bride enters the bridal canopy, yet against whomsoever who speaks obscenely [thereof], even if a sentence of seventy years' happiness had been sealed for him, it is reversed for evil.

This isn't simply saying 'bad words.' The rabbis taught (Pesachim 3a) that it is proper for one to speak with clean language, but dirty words are not nivul peh per se - nivul peh is something said in context.

Therefore, to answer:

1) It isn't about specific words; it is about speaking a certain way about certain things.

2) There is no indication that this issue has anything to do with chillul Hashem. I think it is common sense that this is a simple issue of character refinement, and I also posited here that that might be the biblical source for this idea.

3) Nivul peh is not classically something directed at someone.

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