Where did swearing come from

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where did swearing come from

Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing by Melissa Mohr

Almost everyone swears, or worries about not swearing, from the two year-old who has just discovered the power of potty mouth to the grandma who wonders why every other word she hears is obscene. Whether they express anger or exhilaration, are meant to insult or to commend, swear words perform a crucial role in language. But swearing is also a uniquely well-suited lens through which to look at history, offering a fascinating record of what people care about on the deepest levels of a culture--whats divine, whats terrifying, and whats taboo.

Holy Sh*t tells the story of two kinds of swearing--obscenities and oaths--from ancient Rome and the Bible to today. With humor and insight, Melissa Mohr takes readers on a journey to discover how swearing has come to include both testifying with your hand on the Bible and calling someone a *#$&!* when they cut you off on the highway. She explores obscenities in ancient Rome--which were remarkably similar to our own--and unearths the history of religious oaths in the Middle Ages, when swearing (or not swearing) an oath was often a matter of life and death. Holy Sh*t also explains the advancement of civility and corresponding censorship of language in the 18th century, considers the rise of racial slurs after World War II, examines the physiological effects of swearing (increased heart rate and greater pain tolerance), and answers a question that preoccupies the FCC, the US Senate, and anyone who has recently overheard little kids at a playground: are we swearing more now than people did in the past?

A gem of lexicography and cultural history, Holy Sh*t is a serious exploration of obscenity--and it also just might expand your repertoire of words to choose from the next time you shut your finger in the car door.
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Published 07.07.2019

Three Types of Forbidden Words

We have a healthy love for our swear words. We know where "shit" comes from , so it's time to explore when "bull" first America is credited for making "bullshit" into slang, but the word did exist before it became widely used.
Melissa Mohr

The Historical Origins Of 6 Swear Words

Our favourite four-letter words have a fascinating history. Rather than being written in manuscripts by monks, we find them used by normal people and preserved in surprising places like place names, personal names, and animal names and they reveal more about our medieval past than just attitudes towards sex and body parts. Using place names though, we can trace it back a bit earlier. The more common Middle English word for sex was swive , which has developed nicely into the Modern English word swivel , as in: go swivel on it. The earliest examples of fuck in English appear in place names. These both feature a kestrel known as the Windfucker which, we must assume, went at the wind. The next definite example comes from Bristol in Fockynggroue , which may have been named for a grove where couples went for some quiet alone time.

John Spurr examines profanities and oaths in the 15th—18th centuries and tells us what they reveal about society at the time. Instead Hotspur demanded a good mouth-filling oath. The oaths of the Tudor and Stuart centuries, the era of Shakespeare — , still jump out at modern readers from plays, courtroom testimonies and countless other sources. And they strike us as very different from our own bad language. Swearing supposedly ran along the lines of social status and gender. And swearing was always something of a performance.

Your reaction, clawing out from the depths of your gut, is to scream profanities. To yourself, out the window, or by offering your middle finger, a gesture as blunt as any four-letter expletive.
cross cultural research shows that

Curse like a Sailor, Study like a Scholar

I was in a fight with a fellow introvert the other day. It's rare, but it does happen. Anyway, this companion of mine happens to take his grammar pedantry pretty seriously, so I'm always on my grammatical guard around him lest he correct me for an accidental slip up. Because we were fighting over the use of the serial comma what else? As two young language buffs, we both tend to take advantage of all the words available in a fight, even those that might not be so acceptable in what some call "polite company. I was just about to fly into a cuss-filled rage at him when it happened.

Profanity is socially offensive language, [1] which may also be called curse words or swearing British English , cuss words American English and Canada , swear words , bad words , crude language , coarse language , oaths , blasphemous language , vulgar language , lewd language , choice words , or expletives. Used in this sense, profanity is language that is generally considered by certain parts of a culture to be strongly impolite, rude or offensive. It can show a debasement of someone or something , or be considered as an expression of strong feeling towards something. In its older, more literal sense, "profanity" refers to a lack of respect for things that are held to be sacred , which implies anything inspiring deserving of reverence , as well as behaviour showing similar disrespect or causing religious offense. The term "profane" originates from classical Latin "profanus", literally "before outside the temple". It carried the meaning of either "desecrating what is holy" or "with a secular purpose" as early as the s. Moreover, many Bible verses speak against swearing.


  1. Dylan T. says:

    The modern history of swearing: Where all the dirtiest words come from | scopenitout.com

  2. Peppin B. says:

    Profanity is socially offensive language, which may also be called curse words or swearing .. "PM Modi lists out abuses hurled at him, says Congress did not even spare his mother - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved

  3. Elneyfelders1950 says:

    Swear words have a strange power over us.

  4. Yexalen M. says:

    A History of Profanity in Early Modern English - HistoryExtra

  5. Juan T. says:

    Profanity - Wikipedia

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