Despite the recent crackdown on bad language on television and radio shows, swearing is nothing new. In fact, many of the same words that are considered “clean” today were considered “dirty” in the past.
In the Tuesday, September 20 edition of the New York Times, Natalie Angier lists some of these, such as “wretch,” “rascal,” “punk,” “deuce” and “meddle” (which once meant to have sex). Words we try to substitute for cuss words today were once curses themselves, such as “zounds” (which referred to Christ’s wounds), “Criminy” (Christ), “Gadzooks” (God’s hooks, probably the nails on the cross), “Gosh” (now safe, but it once meant God), “heck” (hell), “drat,” “shucks” “Gee Willikers” and even the Disney favorite, “Jiminy Crickets” (which meant Jesus). A newer version from a James Cagney film was “Cheese n? rice.” Baseball radio announcer Phil Rizzuto was famous for saying, “Holy Cow.”
A newspaper reporter once got in trouble for using the word SNAFU in a column, because she’d forgotten what the military term actually stood for: “Situation Normal, All F—-d up.”
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