The forgotten legacies of swear words

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There aren’t many four-letter words that can pride themselves as being an impactful and dynamic slice of the English dictionary.

Curse words. Cuss words. Swear words. Impolite words. Profane words. Call it what you will, and use them if you dare.

Of the English vocabulary, some of the most common swear words include the infamous “f–k,” “s–t” and “d–n.” Although most can define these words, many forget about the colorful history of the words.

Read through for a brief history of some of English’s most poignant words.

F – – K

Once upon a time, a monk, dating back to the 16th century, unleashed an uncanny and resentful spurt when reading the monastery copy of De Officiis, the guide to moral demeanor.

Profane? Sort of. Punctual? Definitely. The origins of one of the most popular swear words to this day? Probably.

F–k verbal slang, verb
1. have sexual intercourse with (someone).
2. ruin or damage (something).

The word remained ingrained in the daily language among millions of Americans. Whether written in fine literature such as The Great Gatsby or eloquently phrased by President Donald Trump when addressing jobs moved to Mexico, there is an expressive tone when using the word.

Many have likely learned such a word from social media, literature or the people in their surroundings; though, many fail to commemorate the true, unforeseen origin of the word.

Back to the monk — when reading the text, in an outcry of frustration, he wrote, “O d f–kin Abbot,” a phrase unknown to be describing sexual intercourse or simply an agitated form of expression, Huffington Post states. The word itself originates from the Germanic word for “strike” or “to move back and forth.” As historians are still wary as to if this is the true first use of the word in this manner, many myths and tales of the word’s origins still linger to this day.

This isn’t exactly the most eloquent origin of a word, yet it is safe to say it was quite potent.

S – – T

As old as the thirteenth century, s–t, has remained true to it’s original definition over the decades of altered language, a concept unique to many other commonly used swear words.

S–t verbal slang, noun
1. feces.
2. a contemptible or worthless person.

According to the English Oxford Dictionary, the word, originally adapted from the Old English and Germanic nouns, ‘scrite’ and ‘schite,’ meant ‘dung.’ S–t, to this day, although continually used to refer to poop, has revamped other profane phrases and labels, such as “Shitfaced,” “Shithole” and “Holy s–t!”

Shit has also whittled it’s way into literature, often attributing and unexpectedly strong characteristic to the text. This can be portrayed in Gabriel García Márquez’s No One Writes to the Colonel.

“And meanwhile what do we eat?” she asked and seized the colonel by the collar of his flannel night shirt. She shook him hard.
It had taken the colonel seventy-five years – the seventy-five years of his life, minute by minute – to reach this moment. He felt pure, explicit, invincible at the moment when he replied:
“S–t”

D – – N

There is quite a wide spread transitioning spread throughout the youth of Americans: growing out of the word “darn” and into the word “d–n.”

D–n, over the years, has lost its original connotation. Deriving from French and Latin roots, the words “damnum,” “damnare” and “damner” all had a similar definition: to condemn or injure, according to the English Oxford Dictionary. Although the definition has not strayed too far from the original, the connotation today often allures a ill-intended connotation.

It wasn’t until approximately a century later in which the word took a theological meaning, upholding a blasphemous connotation.

D–n verbal slang, verb
1. (in Christina belief) to be condemned by God to suffer eternal punishment in hell.
2. condemn, especially by the public expression of disapproval.

One of the first popular and public modern implementation of the word appears in the classic movie, Gone With the Wind. The word makes it’s cameo in a manner shocking to the public; so much so that it almost didn’t make it into the movie.

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a d–n.”
Although likely not the most profane use of the word one has heard, it sure was a show-stopper at the time.

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About Author

First year El Estoque staff member Sara Entezar is an opinion editor. She enjoys learning about different cultures, trying new foods and celebrating differences.