Mission Improbable - the Search for Swearwords (waaaaay offt

Postby Muttley on Fri Apr 19, 2002 1:59 pm

I'd better preface this with "sorry for any inadvertent offence I may cause . . ."

Posting in another forum, I finished with "praising with faint damn's" to indicate wholehearted approval. Next day I go back to find that a moderator had edited the post to read "praising with faint darn's" and had added the comment "Language...:wink:"

I assumed initially that this was just some sanctimonious twit abusing his power, but I find that there is some measure of agreement with his position from other board-members, and not much with mine.

No dictionary I can find, on the shelves or online, lists "damn" as vulgar, offensive or obscene. My wife (the English Teacher) tells me that it might have been touch-and-go for Shakespeare, and that the Victorians found it vulgar (but for heaven's sake, they found piano legs vulgar), but that in modern usage it is deemed inoffensive.

My question, then, (should you choose to accept it), is "Is 'damn' a swearword, where you live?"

Subsidiary question... what does a (different) moderator mean by "this board is G-rated"? Who rates a board? and who defines what a G-rated board consists of?

This post will self-destruct in five seconds...

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Postby Gormenghastly on Fri Apr 19, 2002 3:05 pm

"Damn" isn't one of Carlin's words you can't say on TV, but some people consider it a form of taking the lord's name in vain. I won't say much about the fact that most of the same people are not offended by "darn" which has as far as I can tell the exact same meaning.

The G-rating refers to the US film rating scheme. A G-rated film is appropriate for everyone, or to borrow a phrase from another forum I lurk on, "wouldn't offend Eric Noah's Grandmother". Think classic Disney animation.
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Postby KingLeon on Fri Apr 19, 2002 5:36 pm

Jeez... I come from the Buffalo area, and around here if you say 'Damn' in a classroom, a teacher hushes you right up... It's a swearword to most people I know. I didn't even know there were places where "Damn" wasn't considered a swearword. Heck, if I was the mod I would have done the same thing...
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Postby T Campbell on Fri Apr 19, 2002 6:09 pm

Yes.
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Postby Jarnor23 on Fri Apr 19, 2002 6:54 pm

Y'know, it's times like these that make me remember the little ditty that Jay was singing at the start of Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back. :wink:

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Postby Sasquatchhunter on Fri Apr 19, 2002 7:33 pm

big ups to the new illustrator! does anyone know who this guy is? he's da bomb! holla at me
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Postby Lordjulius on Fri Apr 19, 2002 9:08 pm

On 2002-04-19 19:09, T Campbell wrote:
Yes.


And yet you didn't replace it with "darn," as the other moderator did. I believe by that inaction you were showing that there are degrees of "swearing," and that "damn" is a very mild swear word indeed. In fact, I'd say that "darn" is just plain silly, at this point, because "damn" is regarded so lightly that it doesn't need to be euphemized -- especially in a case where doing so destroys the wit in the original.

The phrase "Damn with faint praise" was written in a poem called "Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot" by Alexander Pope sometime in the 18th Century, and was printed in the 1919 edition of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations available online free at bartleby.com (that edition of Bartlett's does not give a publication date, but Pope was born in 1688 and died in 1744, so I think it's safe to say the poem was written in the 18th Century).

That the 1919 Bartlett's had it as a "familiar" quotation, is, I think, proof that, absent the word "God," the word "damn" by itself has not been considered inappropriate in polite society for quite some time.

The original phrase, searched in Google with quotes around it to ensure exact phrase searching only, returns over 500 hits, and "damning with faint praise" over 1800 more. I didn't visit all of them, but none of them seem to be sites dedicated to rude language or anything like that. It's just an everyday phrase people use.

Now, if you do take the Lord's name in vain, or if you tread on His perogative by damning someone to Hell, then you've pushed the word beyond polite limits and into swearing.

However, I do not see how using wit to turn the phrase around makes "praising with faint damns" inappropriate when the relatively bluenosed population of 1919 accepted Pope's original.


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<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: lordjulius on 2002-04-20 00:22 ]</font>
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Postby Shatteredtower on Sat Apr 20, 2002 12:39 am

On 2002-04-19 14:59, Muttley wrote:

My question, then, (should you choose to accept it), is "Is 'damn' a swearword, where you live?"


By itself, yes. To say "Damn you!" or just "Damn!" is going well beyond saying, "Die!" when you think about it from a certain perspective. If you believe in resurrection, death is not a one-way ticket, but damnation is still forever. And there are those who believe that only one authority has that power, and people have no right to try to claim it.

I'm not with them. :wink: But I do understand their point of view. I also believe that the context in which the word is used is important.
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well damn

Postby Blondlot on Tue Apr 23, 2002 5:23 pm

Well fornicating under consent of the king, I have no idea how people can, without proper assistance, shove a stick so far up their as... er, rears as to find 'damn' offensive.

I mean DAMN.

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Well, well well

Postby Muttley on Tue Apr 23, 2002 10:29 pm

:o It let me post! It actually let me post!! Only took ten minute too... :-?

You learn somethhing new every day . . . I had no idea that "damn" would be regarded so widely as a taboo word. If you would indulge me further, is there a regional aspect to this i.e. are there areas of North America where "damn" is not regarded as a swearword, or is it genereal to the whole of the US and Canada?

And outside the US? Any Anzac fans out there? Any Europeans (for whom English would be a second language, just to complicate things).

Your feedback is much appreciated and is helping me compose a reply to the moderators of the board in question, with whom I am in (largely good-natured) contact already. 8)

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Yes and No

Postby Lordjulius on Fri Apr 26, 2002 12:31 pm

I don't think it's geographical. That is, I think it is a swear word everywhere that English is spoken, but casual use in TV and movies since Clark Gable astonished everyone by uttering it in 1939 has made it an extremely mild one for most folks.

I would say extremely religious people take it seriously because of its literal meaning, which is almost never in mind when people use it. It's really only possible to construe the meaning as literal in some constructions, such as "Damn you!" I mean, in what sense can you think someone is referring to sending a soul to eternal hellfire when they say "Damn! That was good!"?

So there may be regional differences in that there are regions where there are likely to be more people concerned about things like that. In the U.S. at least, you'll be on safer ground in a city than a rural area, and generally in the north and east rather than the south and west. But these aren't regional differences in whether it's a swear word -- it is, period -- but on whether it's one that is taken seriously.
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Is it or isn't it?

Postby Muttley on Sat Apr 27, 2002 2:24 am

Since swearing and taboo words are socially-defined, the taboo status of a word can, I suppose, only be defined in its social context. It is complicated (for English) by the wide spread of the language into many different continents, lands and societys. In the UK I would say that damn is not regarded as a swearword, and the entry in the Oxford English Dictionary seems to confirm this, making no mention of a coarse, profane or vulgar sense. I suppose if one regarded damn as solely having a religious connotation, then it would be in line for taboo status.

Isn't language fun? Bad language, too.
(Board still almost unusably slow)
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damn // v., n., adj., & adv.
v.tr.
1 (often absol. or as int. of anger or annoyance, = may God damn) curse (a person or thing).
2 doom to hell; cause the damnation of.
3 condemn, censure (a review damning the performance).
4 a (often as damning adj.) (of a circumstance, piece of evidence, etc.) show or prove to be guilty; bring condemnation upon (evidence against them was damning). b be the ruin of.
n.
1 an uttered curse.
2 colloq. a negligible amount (not worth a damn).
adj. & adv. colloq. = damned.
damn all Brit. colloq. nothing at all.
damn well colloq. (as an emphatic) simply (damn well do as I say).
damn with faint praise commend so unenthusiastically as to imply disapproval.
I'm (or I'll be) damned if colloq. I certainly do not, will not, etc.
not give a damn see give.
well I'm (or I'll be) damned colloq. exclamation of surprise, dismay, etc.
damningly adv.
[Middle English via Old French damner from Latin damnare &#8216;inflict loss on&#8217;, from damnum &#8216;loss&#8217;]
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not to burst your bubble

Postby Raiden2 on Mon May 20, 2002 12:58 pm

however : "1 an uttered curse"

In context I take "curse" to mean a curse (or swear) word. Personally, I dont think it's considered a particularly vulgar word in MY region (or group of associates anyway) but it IS considered a swer word.

That said, I think it was incredibly silly for the admin to censor your quote. :evil:
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RE: Curse words

Postby Wish on Sun Jun 30, 2002 12:15 pm

'Damn' would have gotten my mouth washed out with soap as a child, but 'shit' was the first curse word I ever heard my mother say. (THAT was a life-altering experience, let me tell you.)

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