Evolution of Profanity

The evolution of written profanity began roughly in the
sixteenth century, and continues to change with each generation that
it sees. Profanity is recognized in many Shakespearean works, and has
continually evolved into the profane language used today. Some cuss
words have somehow maintained their original meanings throughout
hundreds of years, while many others have completely changed meaning
or simply fallen out of use.
William Shakespeare, though it is not widely taught, was not a
very clean writer. In fact, he was somewhat of a potty mouth. His
works encompassed a lot of things that some people wish he had not.
"That includes a fair helping of sex, violence, crime, horror,
politics, religion, anti-authoritarianism, anti-semitism, racism,
xenophobia, sexism, jealousy, profanity, satire, and controversy of
all kinds" (Macrone 6). In his time, religious and moral curses were
more offensive than biological curses. Most all original (before
being censored) Shakespearean works contain very offensive profanity,
mostly religious, which is probably one of many reasons that his works
were and are so popular. "Shakespeare pushed a lot of buttons in his
day- which is one reason he was so phenomenally popular. Despite what
they tell you, people like having their buttons pushed" (Macrone 6).
Because his works contained so many of these profane words or phrases,
they were censored to protect the innocent minds of the teenagers who
are required to read them, and also because they were blasphemous and
offensive. Almost all of the profanity was removed, and that that was
not had just reason for being there. Some of the Bard's censored oaths

"God's blessing on your beard"
Love's Labors Lost, II.i.203
This was a very rude curse because a man's facial hair
was a point of pride for him. and "to play with someone's
beard" was to insult him.

"God's body"
1 Henry IV,II.i.26
Swearing by Christ's body, (or any part thereof,) was off
limits in civil discourse.

"God's Bod(y)kins, man"
Hamlet, II.ii.529
The word bod(y)kin means "little body" or "dear body," but
adding the cute little suffix does not make this curse any
more acceptable.

"By God's [blest] mother!"
2 Henry VI, II.i;
3 Henry VI, III.ii;
Henry VIII, V.i
Swearing by the virgin was almost as rude as swearing by
her son, especially when addressing a catholic cathedral as
Gloucester did in 2 Henry VI, II.i

Perhaps the two worst of these Shakespearean swears were
"'zounds" and "'sblood." "'Zounds" had twenty-three occurrences.
Ten of them were in 1 Henry IV. The rest appear in Titus (once),
Richard III (four times), Romeo and Juliet (twice), and Othello ( six
times). Iago and Falstaff were the worst offenders. 'Zounds has
evolved into somewhat of a silly and meaningless word, but was
originally horribly offensive. This oath, short for "God's wounds,"
was extremely offensive because references to the wounds or blood of
Christ were thought especially outrageous, as they touched directly on
the crucifixion. "'Sblood" had twelve occurrences in all. There were
eight times in 1 Henry IV (with Falstaff accounting for six), plus
once in Henry V, twice in Hamlet, and once in Othello. 'Sblood occurs
less than 'zounds, but is equally offensive and means basically the
same thing.
Several other words came from Great Britain, but were not
included in Shakespeare's works. Today the expression "Gadzooks!" is
not particularly offensive to most. Of course, most don't know what
it originally meant. Gadzooks was originally slang for "God's hooks,"
and was equally offensive to 'zounds and 'sblood as it also referred
to the crucifixion. An interesting note is that there is a store
called Gadzooks which everyone thinks of as a pop-culture vendor to
America's youth. Some (but not many) of Gadzooks' shoppers would be
very offended if they knew the true meaning of the store's name.
Another word from this region is a Cockney expression, "Gorblimey,"
which is a word used to swear to the truth, and is a shortened form of
"God blind me." Also, in England, words such as "bloody," "blimey,"
"blinkin'," beginning with the letters "BL" are taken offense to
because they, once again, refer to the blood of Christ and the
The military has an interesting technique for swearing their
brains out without offending anyone. "They use the phonetic alphabet
(A= Alpha, B= Bravo, C= Charlie, etc.) as a code for their swearing"
(Interview). For inezce, instead of