When we filmed the Guek family at home a year ago, Mdm Ong Chu had been swearing at others for months. Her family finds it difficult to bring her even to doctors’ appointments because she could hurl vulgarities at others. Her sons explained that she never used to be like this, but that changed after a series of strokes and heart trouble.
The part of her brain which controls speech has been affected, and she can only communicate her thoughts and emotions through expletives. Researchers have found that the brain stores expletives separately from normal speech.
According to the Scientific American, “unlike normal language, which relies on the outer few millimeters in the left hemisphere of the brain, expletives hinge on evolutionarily ancient structures buried deep inside the right half.”
The Guek family’s story is exhibited at VivoCity till 8 September and Jurong Regional Library till 30 September.