Thursday, 7 January 2016

minced oath or lightwater syndrome

Swearing came about as a linguistic loophole to prohibitions against blasphemy. Socrates’ frequent but rather timid exclamation of “by the dog”—referring to constellation of Canis Major and not “god” backwards, of course—was even known as the Rhadamanthine oath in order to forever ridicule that king’s embargo on invoking the names of the gods in vain.
All sorts of stealth cursing came about and though a lot of the inventions ring as old-fashioned and mincing profanity, which is almost equally unacceptable in polite-company as one’s dancing around the taboo and not making the effort to really distance oneself from vulgar language. Self-censorship’s euphemistic history extends as far back to when we first learned to mask our unmitigated reactions with language: consarnit, Sam Hill, Land of Goshen, Jesus wept (which is considered suitable as one is reciting the shortest verse in the Bible), ‘zounds for by Christ’ wounds and ods bodilns—by God’s nails. If we’ve somewhat matured in keeping our speech cultured (and possibly our own minds out of the gutter), it’s interesting then that we’re being drawn back into the phase of snickering humour by those filters we put in place to keep content age-appropriate and our immediate environment relatively smut-free. Those automated bowdlerisers (despite advances in the industry) perennially and incredulously inconvenience residents of the English towns of Sussex and Penistone and the titular village—as well as many unfortunately named persons—and the phenomena is called the Scunthrope Problem, after another municipality in Lincolnshire with Norse etymology. Keeping a swear-jar near at hand is a good motivator to be as colourful with one’s metaphors as possible or at least to retain adult-decorum.  Alright governor.