Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on ReligionInstitute for Studies of Relgion
IJRR :: 2018 Volume 14 :: Article 9
2018 Volume 14, Article 9
A Linguistic and Religious Interpretation of the Word Pain in the Age of American Secularism

Author: David Johnson (Kennesaw State University Kennesaw, Georgia)

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This article examines the words pain, hurt, religion, and God in American English. Despite the linguistic struggle to describe pain, sufferers discuss pain a great deal; they feel compelled to articulate their pain to engender sympathy or to seek medical treatment. But pain sufferers have not always articulated their pain experiences with the same frequency through time. There is variation in the frequency of pain language in American English. This article analyzes the frequency of the words pain and hurt since the year 1800 in four linguistic corpora: Google Books Corpus, Corpus of Contemporary American English, Corpus of Historical American English, and Time Magazine Corpus. In addition, this study includes a unique perspective in that it does not simply examine the frequency of pain words, but the frequency examination is done in light of the increasing secularization of American society. The principal question is this one: does the increase of pain language correspond with the decrease of language dealing with the divine in American English? The data presented show a substantial increase in pain language in American English, particularly since the 1960s, and this growth parallels the era when language related to the divine was in sharp decline.

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