It’s probably happened in your own life, or you’ve seen it in the movies, someone says "What the fucK’ or whatever and someone says, “Such language around the children!”
The children are going to eventually learn and use these words. Why do we have to shelter them from them when they are young? There are certain things that children don’t need to hear until they have reached a certain age, you don’t want to tell a 5 year old that they are eventually going to die. Or introduce then to the Kama Sutra.
Children already know all those words by whatever tender age (even before they know exactly what they mean or have the imagination to come up with some truly obscene yet creative oaths); the only difference is teaching by example what level of polite/formal language is appropriate in what situation.
It’s dumb. I’ve been swearing around my kids since they were wee. I don’t care if they drop swear words at home as long as they’re not being mean to each other or anyone else. I also taught them that these rules are house rules and that swearing is not acceptable at school or friends houses because they don’t necessarily have the same rules. They seem to have figured it out. Frankly it takes the fun out of it for them.
I think many people today just don’t really how taboo and shocking and rare “naughty words” used to be, compared to the way things are today Not only couldn’t you curse around children, you couldn’t curse around “polite company”; you couldn’t curse in “mixed company”; you couldn’t curse on TV or on the radio or in movies.
that makes sense. Curse words are used for emphasis. But why are they “bad” words? What is the difference, in polite company, between saying "I have to go to the men’s room, and saying “I have to go take a shit”?
Is it because using the former doesn’t give the listener a visual picture? Is that how we define good and bad words?
Related topic - how did “fuck you” become an insult? Kathy Griffin, who I really, really don’t like - she rambles on and on and on an on about nothing - had a bit about it. "Why would you wish the nicest thing in the world on someone as a bad thing? "
My Daddy taught the lil’wrekker Japanese curse words. English curse words and a couple of French terms.
It kinda surprised me when she was 3 and holding a foster kitten. The cat scratched her. She said, in plain un-toddler fashion “That bastard scratched me!” Very jarring coming out of a tiny sweet faced baby girl. And, that was one of the more PG examples.
It took me, IDK, the rest of her preschool years, to un-teach them. I couldn’t have her going to kindergarten cussing like a sailor.
Moral: It’s the societal norm that children don’t curse. And Mommy doesn’t want to be called to school to explain why her child uses expletives.
Of course, this begs the question - why ‘curse’ at all? There aren’t that many to begin with and many of them are racial or homophobic so shouldn’t be used anyway.
The rest are just boring. Maybe your granny would be shocked if you say ‘fuck’ or ‘shit’ but most people would not. There are some some imaginative new ones that we can use to insult someone or to emphasise a verbal point. My favourite English one is ‘cockwomble’ and I believe that there are some American versions of that.
The simple answer is while you can cuss all you fucken want and mostly get away with it, children are likely to get in trouble for it. Yes they will tend to get in trouble because YOU cursed around them. The pattern will be, they hear you curse observe the results and try it out and get in trouble. Children imitate to understand society as part of them learning.
In effect you are having them being punished for your act.
So a person who teaches kids to do something that will cause them to get in trouble, well lets just say they should not demonstrate that ‘lesson’ in front of kids.
Now that you know the reason you can chose to be responsible around them.
It’s in the name. “Curse words”. The name has it’s origin in using words to wish ill on others. “Go to hell”, “A pox on you”. It’s not that long ago people considered that an actual act of harm with potential real consequences for health and well being.
Expanding that meaning to include stuff like “Taking God’s name in vain” and a dislike of people using “curse words” (i.e. words used to curse someone) for emphasis naturally follows.
In Norwegian, the word for curse words is a completely different one, “banneord”, but the literal meaning is the same, “a word for putting a curse on someone”.
Why they persist? 90% of “this is polite” is entirely about custom and the response is habituation. People grow up being told that cursing is bad, so they internalize a “that is bad” response when hearing cursing.
Aside: Most modern Americans have forgotten the distinction between curses, profanities, and obscenities. There can be some overlap between them, but they can also be completely distinct. “Fuck you” is a curse and an obscenity, but not profanity. “Go to Hell” is a curse and a profanity, but not an obscenity. “Oh God I’m cumming” is a profanity and an obscenity, but not a curse. “Good Heavens” is a profanity but not a curse nor an obscenity. “Go die in a fiery crash” is a curse but not a profanity nor an obscenity. “Oh shit” is an obscenity but not a profanity nor a curse.
I always assumed that when used as an insult, it implied that the nature and other participant in the act would make it unwanted by the recipient. E.g., a het male would be topped by another male. Basically, “rape you”.
I think part of the answer is that they’re “bad” because they’re “bad,” circular as that is.
We (as a society) find it useful to have some words that are “bad” or strong or shocking. But they should be used sparingly, because if they’re used all the time, they lose their shock value, their effect.* They’re kind of like shouting. The person who yells all the time has a different effect than yelling from a person who hardly ever raises their voice.
*Opinions differ over whether it’s good or bad for them to lose their shock value, and why.
But whatever it is that makes them “bad,” it’s not the meaning. “Poop,” “crap,” and “shit” have the same meaning, both literally and idiomatically, but (for lack of a better term) “poop” is G, “crap” is PG, and “shit” is R. And there’s a word that starts with N that’s considered “bad” enough that I’m not going to use it here, but there are other, much more acceptable words with the same surface meaning.