Profanity Hasn’t Come Very Far

As a lover of language, I was disheartened to learn how little we’ve progressed in creative ways to express our f-bombs. Read this post from Mark Lamster about an incredible official document published by Major League Baseball in 1897 on the rise in profanity used by players. Mark notes how "fresh" the profanity seems. As Dan Drezner says,

While it’s fascinating to read that profanity hasn’t changed that much in 110 years, it’s also a little disturbing…it appears that Americans have yet to improve on "You c$%#-s&^%ing son-of-a-b@#!$!!!"

Excerpt from the document:


4 comments on “Profanity Hasn’t Come Very Far
  • Why should you be disheartened?

    Since it’s built on the themes of sex and domination, profanity probably hasn’t changed much since our ancestors first created language, and probably won’t change much in the next hundred thousand years, if humanity should last so long.

  • Or perhaps it’s reflective of our cultural conscience not coming very far…

    The nature of profanity is such that it is intended to shock or insult by going beyond particular boundaries. Those boundaries are defined by what is and is not acceptable.

    Given the fact that our profanity remains much the same, it seems that our sense of what is and is not appropriate has remained relatively static.

    In other words, don’t hate the language, hate the game.

  • Profanity intrudes on taboos. In fact, those taboos create profanity. While some people joke about calling someone a democrat or a lawyer as profanity, it illustrates the fact that profanity is, ultimately, situational.

    More often than not what we actually take offense at is the spirit in which the comment is made, rather than the actual content of the remark. Therefore, the language need not change very much, so long as the malice is there.

    Email and other electronic communication strip away some modes of interpretation, but not all. How many times have we had to explain that something we said in email or in a blog post was meant in a certain harmless way because the reader added their own offense?

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