Cussing

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Hello! I have a funny question for everyone... I was thinking of how the American colonists may have "spiced" up there language. I have a fairly good idea of some of the more common curse words used in the Colonies during the mid 1700s. My question to you gents is what are some of our modern curses that would be understood back then? We don't say bloody or bugger too much on this side of the Atlantic but they were both very common back then. What are some things that we still use colloquially in the States that may have been understood more or less back then? Cover your ears!!!
 
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Well we are not supposed to use swear words on the forum
In the sixteenth century some expressions got in to routine writings.
A cod piece was the closure on mens hose, a European breechcot. Cod was a euphemism. On armor these could be decorated in sexual manner.
Sexual things were often written in Latin, but the base for these were often the ‘dirty words’ in Latin
Swearing in the eighteenth century often had a blasphemous component. Saying the lords name in vain was worse than a sexual swear word.
Routine tools or equipment often had sexual names.
Somethings were used routinely. We know from ‘eye witness’ accounts an officer could verbally abuse any underling.
Being called a scoundrel was ‘fighting words’
But men were men and rough speech between the guys also seems to have been common. In ‘The Virginian ’ he is called an SOB, and his answer was ‘smile when you say that’
Not worth a tinkers dam, is today meaningless and often spelled damn. When what it met then was a clay plug on a casting cauldron, made to be broke when the metal was ready for the pour.
Some terms today would be meaningless back then, but in general we use much of the same words. And interestingly many of the concepts behind them crossed cultural lines.
A bastard became a swear word, but originally it just referred to inheritance status. An No special bad meaning was attached to it. And even some were chosen to inherit, like William Duke of Normandy.
The old sea shanty Man On The Moon have verses that ranged from suggestive to vulgar , but the last makes me smile.
‘I wish all the young girls
Were singing this song
It would be twice as dirty
And ten times as long’
 
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Brokennock

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It keeps coming up, and keeps getting forgotten, in many discussions here, about a variety of items and practices,,,, social mores and standards, and general ways of thinking change. Application of our thinking, "what we would do or say" now, what is acceptable on society,,,, is different than just 20 years ago, never mind 200.
What would have been shocking or offensive then was far more likely to be blasphemous than sexual, and if sexual probably really, really, vulgar, and most likely would have had ties to what religion saw as immoral.
If I were to guess, being cussed out involved a creative use of acceptable words more so than any one word.

As for just sprinkling the F-bomb throughout daily conversation, or every time something goes wrong, or the equivalent of the F-bomb if there was one,,, I'm kind of doubting it.

But of course, that is mostly speculation and hypothesis based on period books and articles read. Could still be wrong,,, could be a misinterpretation of what was read.
 
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Well, a lot of times it depended upon your profession/trade or station in life.

I have read the following expressions in contemporaneous period books which lends me to believe that cussing was prevalent in everyday life, just not written in books as it just wouldn't "answer'

Foul as a sailor's mouth (or in other books cussin like a sailor)

"Dock hands have a language all their own. If it wasn't for the cuss words, I would not have understood a word" taken from a book on heading to the Rockies early 1800's while boarding a steamer to take him to St Louis. That twist of words stuck in my mind.

"blacker than a coal mongers heart and fouler than a street tart's tongue" (English)

So it was there, the specific words I am sure were somewhat different, but to the cultural mores of the times, they were cussing nonetheless
 
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Sorry to get so low in the gutter, but,,,

Maybe it was not her words being referenced here......
I thought about that too when I first read it, but when taken in context and especially with the use of tongue vice mouth, in this case, they were referring to her language.

Tongue back then (and even now in other languages...like Spanish for example) also commonly meant language.

Another saying "...wife's tongue was sharper than a barber's razor" meant she was caustic in her speech, which further supports the interpretation that tongue was euphemistic for language.
 
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Brokennock

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So it was there, the specific words I am sure were somewhat different, but to the cultural mores of the times, they were cussing nonetheless
Yup, 100%
If we could have a cussing contest between a team from the 18th century and a team from now, I am betting it couldn't even be judged because one era wouldn't understand the other.
 

Uncle Miltie

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I dint remember Uncle Miltie cussing,,,, cleaner comedy then? Or more subtle? Or maybe I'm mixing up my classic comedians/entertainers.
😆
You really ought to read up on that guy; how he was in real life, and he was in demand by the ladies in Hollywood!
 
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I thought about that too when I first read it, but when taken in context and especially with the use of tongue vice mouth, in this case, they were referring to her language.

Tongue back then (and even now in other languages...like Spanish for example) also commonly meant language.

Another saying "...wife's tongue was sharper than a barber's razor" meant she was caustic in her speech, which further supports the interpretation that tongue was euphemistic for language.
‘Language’ is in fact from the Latin base for tongue
 

Brokennock

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You really ought to read up on that guy; how he was in real life, and he was in demand by the ladies in Hollywood!
I've read/heard.
And while there were things the Hollywood folks knew about within their own circles, it didn't seem to reach the mainstream public knowledge.
I think a lot of those guys had two different personalities, real life and their public character. A much better job was done then of keeping the public image of some of them clean than it is now.
 

Erwan

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Hello! I have a funny question for everyone... I was thinking of how the American colonists may have "spiced" up there language. I have a fairly good idea of some of the more common curse words used in the Colonies during the mid 1700s
"Bon sang de bon Dieu, ce bougre de collectionneur de mots commence à me plaire !!!" (it's soft)

If you're looking for old swear words that have crossed the pond, I can help you out a bit as they're still in use in some families including mine, but they'll just be French swear words that have crossed the ocean to America and Canada...
I doubt our favorite moderators would like that, so I wouldn't venture too far down that way... ;)
 

LME

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It keeps coming up, and keeps getting forgotten, in many discussions here, about a variety of items and practices,,,, social mores and standards, and general ways of thinking change. Application of our thinking, "what we would do or say" now, what is acceptable on society,,,, is different than just 20 years ago, never mind 200.
What would have been shocking or offensive then was far more likely to be blasphemous than sexual, and if sexual probably really, really, vulgar, and most likely would have had ties to what religion saw as immoral.
If I were to guess, being cussed out involved a creative use of acceptable words more so than any one word.

As for just sprinkling the F-bomb throughout daily conversation, or every time something goes wrong, or the equivalent of the F-bomb if there was one,,, I'm kind of doubting it.

But of course, that is mostly speculation and hypothesis based on period books and articles read. Could still be wrong,,, could be a misinterpretation of what was read.
Cursing is an attempt of a weak and feeble mind to express itself forcefully! Nothing degrades a person more than the use of foul language.
 

stephenprops1

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I have been told people that cuss a lot have a small vocabulary. Talking like that lets the world know of your ignorance and/or stupidity. I know some people that cuss with every other word. I once told a man that I had only been around 5 minutes that I had heard more cuss words from him than I had heard within the last month and why did he feel a need to talk like that? He said it was a bad habit.
 
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Cursing is an attempt of a weak and feeble mind to express itself forcefully! Nothing degrades a person more than the use of foul language.
Couldn't disagree more. Failure to use all tools to impactfully communicate keeping in mind the audience and situation you are dealing with is the sign of a narrow and possibly arrogant and biased mind. Great communicators and especially those who have dealt with a wide variety of social classes in extreme situations, combat for example, know when, how and where to add the appropriately off color comment.

I agree that some people are coarse and use foul language as a normal form of speech, but to reject the use of an appropriately inserted cuss word because other people go to excess makes no sense to me. Hell, I have a drink or two of alcohol every now and again and just because there are alcoholics in this world doesn't mean I shouldn't. (see what I did there...cuss and drink, but that doesn't make me illiterate, weak or alcoholic).

It may be in your religious way to not do so and that is understandable, but certainly narrows your impact in situations.

So I reject your underlying assumption. The roll of great leaders of men is filled with people who weren't afraid of using harsh and off color words:

Patton, John Basalone, Chesty Puller, Chuck Yeager, Churchill just to name a few off the top of my head. None of them had "weak and feeble minds".
 
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Montgomery

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Well, a lot of times it depended upon your profession/trade or station in life.

I have read the following expressions in contemporaneous period books which lends me to believe that cussing was prevalent in everyday life, just not written in books as it just wouldn't "answer'

Foul as a sailor's mouth (or in other books cussin like a sailor)

"Dock hands have a language all their own. If it wasn't for the cuss words, I would not have understood a word" taken from a book on heading to the Rockies early 1800's while boarding a steamer to take him to St Louis. That twist of words stuck in my mind.

"blacker than a coal mongers heart and fouler than a street tart's tongue" (English)

So it was there, the specific words I am sure were somewhat different, but to the cultural mores of the times, they were cussing nonetheless
Spoken like a China Seas Marine!
 
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