Those #@%^%** Cuss Words!

I like to write. That being so, I have a fascination with words. I like playing with them. I like learning of their origins. I like putting words together to paint a mental picture. We see things in our minds when we hear or read words.
I don’t understand how societies decide which words are acceptable and which ones are not. There are certain standards I don’t question. Using the Lord’s name as a swear word is a taboo that I have no problem with. I understand that a society sets it’s own standards in many areas. I just don’t understand how we arrived at the decision that certain words became marked as swear words, curse words, or cuss words.
I’m not suggesting that as a society, we don’t have a right to set commonly recognized standards regarding acceptable vs unacceptable words. It’s just that I wasn’t around for the vote, and never got to hear the debate.

Why do we call it “Blue” humor? What about having a mouth like a sailor? Do sailors use more vulgar language than marines?

Most of the words that were branded as “dirty” when I was a child had to do with bodily function, bodily activity, body parts, or where we might go when our spirits left our bodies.
When I was young, the word “Hell” was used as a swear word on it’s own. “Oh Hell” you’d hear grownups exclaim. I wasn’t allowed to say it. It was one of the lesser words as was “Damn”. These words are cousins, as damnation refers to one being assigned to Hell.
Rhett Butler began the slow change in damns status in the hierarchy of our cultures array of foul language. “Frankly Scarlett I don’t give a damn” is credited as the first time that “damn” was heard on the big screen. Now if I’d get in trouble for saying damn, I’d be dead meat for G** d***! It’s sort of dumb to nod and wink at damn by itself since God is implied. Only God can damn, right? So even though our society has mostly removed the stigma of damn, I believe it’s worse than other words on our list of baddies.
Darn and dang were the acceptable replacement words. Gosh darn and goldang being the extensions. It’s really kind of stupid that those words were ok, when we meant the other.
When we were kids and got scolded for saying Hell, we’d respond with “Well it’s in the Bible.” That never held water with my parents. Heck was the replacement and we could say it with as much anger as we felt without fear of reprisal.
Though Hell was never really that prominent in the expletive hall of shame, telling someone to go there was. I suppose that since what it meant was to invite one to eternal damnation it counted as two cuss words in one.
Today we have sportscasters talking about a helluva hit on television. I thought Hell was bad. That’s part of what makes the whole good word bad word so confusing to me.
There is a show called “The Best Damn Sports show” It bugs me a little, but that’s my own cultural bias.

Next Up: Body Parts