Do we swear more today?

I’m not sure where we disagree. If it helps to spell it out more explicitly, I’ll agree that he felt constrained to alter it because he wanted to get published, and that the word was unpublishable because the public expected at least the polite fiction of “fug.”

Yes there is. People are less religious now. And a lot of religions take swearing very seriously. Since there are fewer religious people today, on a per capita basis, it seems reasonable to expect that taboos on swearing have decreased correspondingly.

Just echoing what others have said–my grandfather served in the Army in the early 1950s. I asked him about the prevalence of swearing. He said he and his Army buddies swore “all the damn time” around each other.

The thing is, amongst my generation and lower today, it seems like cursing isn’t used to shock. It’s just there. It adds a bit of emphasis, and, online, merely conveys an angrier tone.

No wonder you guys got so offended by my using it, despite not actually directing it at someone.

And to think, I used to be extra careful about this, and it was being here that precipitated the change.

It’s interesting how what was common place is now shocking and vice versa. Advertising depicting men spanking women like children for poor housekeeping / cooking etc. was seen as no big deal in magazine ads of the 40’s through the 60’s, but would be scandalous today. On the flip side casual cursing *in public *is considerably more common.

Couple thoughts:

  1. It depends how you define “swearing.” I think today we use the F- and S- words more in casual conversation. However, 100 years ago, the N-word and other racial epithets were probably more common than swear words today.

  2. I some words, like “damn” or “christ” aren’t swearwords today, but were before. Therefore, when doing research, a typically innocent sentence today like “God damn!” might be considered a serious curse in a certain place at a certain time.

  3. The purpose of swearing is to shock. If you aren’t shocked, it’s not a swear word. Therefore, yes, we do use more words that were formerly swear words, but by this definition, they aren’t swear words anymore if they don’t shock.

  4. Since 2000, there’s been a serious conservative movement in the US spurred by fear-mongering, religion, and the Bush administration that has shut down free speech in nearly all areas of the culture. “Bomb,” for example, is essentially a swear word when used in an airport. While I think we use fewer swear words (because of more censorship) than in 1999, words that weren’t such a big deal (e.g. shit) are now becoming as taboo as they were in the 70’s.

One time I was in a casino playing craps. When I lost a bet, I might go “shit” or “fuck” or some other kind of expletive.

The old man supervisor came up to me and asked me to stop swearing “because there are ladies present.” in a uh… casino. Now, I don’t know if he did not like me swearing or what, but his whole line of “they are ladies present” just annoyed the…fuck out of me.

I can see if we are in church or somewhere like that. But this was a casino. Additionally, do women have weaker ears or will go crazy over a four letter utterance?

Ah, bit of an occupational hazard there… I’ve found that for effective communication it usually pays off to take into consideration the sensitivities of the more delicate members of the audience, in that particular instance, women… and Americans; you never know when one’s lurking about. Sort of like putting in your CV “expertise in nonverbal interpersonal conflict resolution” instead of “A strong tendency for stomping the shit out of someone who happens to disagree with me”:smiley:

I see your point, but if we’re talking about swear-words in an academic discussion, I think it’s OK to use them without censoring them- Otherwise it’d be like writing The Illustrated History Of Pornography and not having any images of exposed breasts, in case someone’s offended by them.

By coming into a discussion about swear words you’ve implicitly accepted the probability that there will be swearing, and subsequently have waived your right to be offended by (or complain about) it.

Also, IME, women swear just as much as- if not more so- than men.

Religion has never done a very good job of preventing adultery, or murder, or robbery, or bigotry, or any number of major sins, or minor ones for that matter. Taking the Lord’s name in vain was apparently such an enormous problem that it was placed into the Commandments above these others. Given the track record of humanity it’s more reasonable to assume that the abuse of that commandment has continued unabated since the day it was enunciated.

You can’t make the unsupported claim that a lot of religions take swearing very seriously and try to make historic numerical comparisons without giving some cites about which religions make this an issue and their comparative numbers over time. You don’t even bother to say whether you are limiting this to the U.S. or worldwide or to what time periods. Your site only goes back to 1990. Are you seriously trying to suggest that people swore less in 1990 than today because they were more religious then? Were you even alive in 1990? Your site also lumps all Christians together. Does anybody believe that every Christian denomination and sect has the same viewpoint on this?

It’s also simply ludicrous to suggest that non-religious people swear more because they don’t have a religion to tell them not to. Do they also commit adultery, murder, robbery, or bigotry more? Do you have any corroboration for any way the less religious are different in actual habits?

Your paragraph might make a good test question because it is badly thought through in so many different ways. Just listing them all would make a solid three-hour essay. That’s the only good thing I can say about it.

I think, had the producers actually made the frequency and profanity terms authentic for the period and location, all the actors would end up sounding like Yosemite Sam. Now that would be comedy.

My first reaction to the OP’s question was “Hell no, we don’t swear more.” But than I thought about it and decided “Fuck yeah we do!”

That’s likely true, especially at a hen party when there aren’t any guys present.

However, my mother taught me that a gentleman doesn’t curse in front of ladies unless they start cursing first, and that no one curses in front of kids.

The first has to do with politeness, the second with the non-corruption of minors.

Is it out of style? I don’t know, but I was raised to believe that good manners never go out of style.

Prompting Tallulah Bankhead (or was it Dorothy Parker?) to greet him at a party with, “So you’re the man who can’t spell ‘fuck.’”

Wikipedia says it was Bankhead, and also that it was scripted, but it sounds like something Parker might have said.

Was this in Las Vegas? The city has a very large Mormon population, many working in the gaming industry.

My personal experience over the last 53 years is that people don’t swear more in day-to-day conversation but swearing has become more mainstream and permissible in the media. Bono said “fuck” on national television, which would have been unthinkable in 1967. People didn’t even say euphemisms like “the f-word” back then because it was too obvious what was meant. In reporting the Nixon tapes, the media used “expletive deleted” and that’s when the country learned the word “expletive.”

There are always things in polite society that aren’t said or done in mixed company, like swearing. Church, casino, or dog track, shouldn’t matter. (If they had men-only casinos, would that game be called “shits”? ;))

Huh? :dubious: Still swearing, still not innocent. Possibly even more objectionable to religious types than typical four-letter words.

Hang on, the tablet said, “Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain.” I don’t remember it saying, “Thou shalt not say shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, or tits.”

I think its fucking ludicrous to attribute some “serious conservative movement” and the Bush admin and the suppression of the use of the word “bomb” in an airport. Airport security, both before and after 9/11 dictated no joking around about that word in an airport. Its the same as yelling “fire” in a crowded movie theater.


Uh, I don’t think that just came with the Bush admin. A teacher of mine in high school told us about his uncle who joked to customs “oooh, careful of that bomb in there!” Needless to say, said uncle did not make his flight.

And this was during the Clinton administration.

Remember too the movie Airplane, from 1980, where Security tackled the guy in the terminal who greeted his friend too enthusiastically: “Hi, Jack!”