Fascinating, four-page article in yesterday’s New York Times Science section on the history AND biology of cursing and curse words. A link on the first page gives a timeline of the big ones, from about 1300 to 1900. Go here and, if you are not registered, just sign in as me: “yellow_mazine@yahoo.ca” and “yellow”. I don’t care, just don’t sign me up for something else!

Did you know that the word Drat was a religious curseword (and I thought only the french had good religion-based swear words, liketabernacle) — it started as God Rot around 1800. Even Zounds was once not innocuous: it meant God’s Wounds and gadzooks started as God’s Hooks (which sounds sinister!).

And “to meddle” actually meant “to fuck” in about 1900. Sfoot meant essentially the same thing.

The article is timed for now because the US is seeking to dramatically up the fines (fifteen-fold) for those who broadcast the big 7. The article sharply critiques the rationale for this kind of potential censorship of the kind of words which have been so prevalent in literature since, well, even the Bible (II Kings 18:27 — but the King James Bible has a tame translation from the rawer versions, so I read). I’m not saying that anything goes in any context, but how powerful will this legislation be?

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