kottke.org posts about swearing
Thesis: the quality of every movie starring Samuel L. Jackson varies directly with the number of times he says "motherfucker." I feel like somebody at 538 should get on this.
Whenever I think about how Sam Jackson says "motherfucker," I can't get this Supremes song out of my head.
Whenever you're near, I hear a symphony
Play sweet and tenderly
Every time your lips meet mine, now, baby, baby, baby
You bring much joy within
Don't let this feeling end
Let it go on and on and on, now, baby, baby, baby
Those tears that fill my eyes
I cry not for myself
But for those who've never felt the joy we felt (baby)
(via @igorbobic by way of @daveweigel)
Update: In mid-2013, Filmdrunk calculated that since joining Twitter, Samuel L. Jackson has spelled "motherfucker" no fewer than 151 different ways.
Over the centuries, vulgar words like fuck and cunt have been included dictionaries, then cast out, then in again, then out, in, out, and so on.
One major problem dictionary editors face in defining sexual terms is deciding how explicit to be. Defining coitus as "an act of sexual intercourse" but leaving sexual intercourse undefined, for example (on the grounds that a reader could figure it out from the definitions of sexual and intercourse), would be a problem, not only because it makes the reader do too much page-flipping but also because the definitions probably still won't be sufficiently clear.
The rest of the article, by Jesse Sheidlower, the editor-at-large of the Oxford English Dictionary, is deliciously vulgar and informative so be wary if you're easily offended and don't like information.
That string of typographic symbols that substitute for swearing in cartoons? It's called a grawlix.
The term is grawlix, and it looks to have been coined by Beetle Bailey cartoonist Mort Walker around 1964. Though it's yet to gain admission to the Oxford English Dictionary, OED Editor-at-Large Jesse Sheidlower describes it as "undeniably useful, certainly a word, and one that I'd love to see used more."
Well, @#$%&?!, that's cool.
English Sentences Without Overt Grammatical Subjects, or the grammar of swearing. "Chomsky observes that the adverbial elements of (39)-(42) are outside of the verb phrase and that only elements within the verb phrase play a role in strict subcategorization of verbs. That principle would clearly be violated if fuck were a verb."
The origins and common usage of British swear words. "Both Oxford and London boasted districts called 'Gropecunte Lane', in reference to the prostitutes that worked there. The Oxford lane was later renamed the slightly less-contentious Magpie Lane, while London's version retained a sense of euphemism when it was changed to 'Threadneedle Street'. Records do not show whether it was a decision of intentional irony that eventually placed the Bank of England there."