Friday, October 26, 2007

Seriously: What the Fuck?

Via Daring Fireball, an interesting New Republic article on profanity, past and present: What the F***?.

As secularization has rendered religious swear words less powerful, creative speakers have replaced them with words that have the same degree of affective clout according to the sensibilities of the day. This explains why taboo expressions can have such baffling syntax and semantics. To take just one example, why do people use the ungrammatical Fuck you? And why does no one have a clear sense of what, exactly, Fuck you means? . . . The most likely explanation is that these grammatically baffling curses originated in more intelligible religious curses during the transition from religious to sexual and scatological swearing in English-speaking countries:

Who (in) the hell are you? >> Who the fuck are you?

I don't give a damn >> I don't give a fuck; I don't give a shit.

Holy Mary! >> Holy shit! Holy fuck!

For God's sake >> For fuck's sake; For shit's sake.

Damn you! >> Fuck you!

Bonus bit from the Onion Radio News: Stupid Fucking Mistake Ruining Whole Fucking Day (warning: may play automatically (and loudly) when you click through).


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