Netflix Television

The History Of Swear Words: A Netflix Show Worth The Watch

The cast of characters:

Nicolas Cage~ Host

Jim Jeffries~ Comedian, Interviewee

Zainab Johnson~ Comedian, Interviewee

Nikki Glaser~ Comedian, Interviewee

Kory Stamper~ Lexicographer, Interviewee

London Hughes~ Comedian, Interviewee

Benjamin Bergen~ Ph.D. Cognitive Scientist, Interviewee

Melissa Mohr~ Ph.D., Author of Holy S*hit A Brief History Of Swearing, Interviewee

Nick Offerman~ Comedian, Interviewee

Elvis Mitchell~ Film Critic, Interviewee

Open Mike Eagle~ Musician and Comedian, Interviewee

Sarah Silverman~ Actress and Comedian, Interviewee

DeRay Davis~ Comedian, Interviewee

Joel Kim Booster~ Comedian, Interviewee

Patti Harrison~ Comedian, Interviewee

Mireille Miller-Young~ Professor of Feminist Studies, Interviewee

Baron Vaughn~ Interviewee

Isiah Whitlock Jr.~ Actor, Interviewee

Nicholas Cage is absolutely perfect for the role of host. He brings to it the right amount of mock seriousness and comedy. I actually love Nicholas Cage as an actor. Yeah, he has had some really bad movies but he also has some phenomenal ones too. I really can’t see anyone else doing this with this level of magnificence.

F*ck

Source Netflix

Mr. Cage opens the episode saying lines with f*ck. A bunch of them. It’s great. He points out that f*ck can be utilized in so many applications. It’s awesome. It can be used to offend, commiserate, to relate, as a noun, verb, compound word, the uses are endless. Nikki Glaser says that if she could only take one swear word to a desert island, it would be f*ck. A few people with PhDs weigh in on the word. The word f*ck has been around for hundreds of years. In the 1400s, the word also came to mean a sexual act. Ms. Stamper talks about the Acronymic Etymology (The practice of using the letters of a word to create its origin story.) of the word. People did/do think that f*ck means Fornication Under Consent of the King. Unfortunately, this is not true, but a fun thought. Originally, f*ck meant to hit. They have found that cussing makes you stronger and more able to withstand pain. It has to do with the flow of adrenaline. The work f*ck is protected speech. It is legal to say it. This leads to a discussion about cussing in the movies. You get maybe two f*cks before you get an R rating. I positively love how many times they use the word f*ck in this episode.

Sh!t

Nicolas Cage opens with talking about a nice refreshing glass of iced tea. Sugar, Honey Ice Tea means sh!t, oy vey. We see how versatile the word is. It is mild in comparison to f*ck but is just as flexible in use. Shit is an Anglo-Saxon word that wasn’t considered taboo for a while. The Folk Etymology (when there is a plausible story for the history of a word but isn’t true) is a fun story about shipping manure as cargo across the sea. Isiah Whitlock’s career was literally built on the word sh!t in The Wire when it took off. They touch on again how cussing can help you physically. To prove this point they did an experiment with near-freezing water. Some cussed with their hands submerged and others did not. The ones who swore while submerging their hands were able to stand it longer than those who did not cuss. Sh!t is more casual than f*ck according to Sarah Silverman and Patti Harrison. F*ck has a bit more oomph. Sh!t became offensive because we strayed away from the word unless there was a specific reason to talk about feces. With plumbing coming around, it became less OK to use the word casually. It is far from the most offensive cuss word though. Through the media and music sh!t went from something dirty to being THE sh!t. Isiah Whitlock did a fifty-six minute or so sh!!!!!!t.

Source Netflix

B!tch

I can not express enough how much I love Nicolas Cage doing this. He opens this episode welcoming us B!tches and says that he has a hard time saying that because he strives to be the utmost gentleman. While I am sure that Mr. Cage is a great person, even someone I would love to meet, his saying that absolutely tickles me. I love the way Kory Stamper explains how it is used. Mireille Miller-Young is a Ph.D. professor of Feminist Studies and weighs in on the word. B!tch is used to take power away. It dismisses women and emasculates men while defaming men it again degrades women in one fell swoop. It does come from about 1000 CE and is from the word Bicce and truly meant a female dog. It is not hard to see how it was easily applied to a woman who is loud and opinionated and stands up for herself. I’m not saying it’s right, just that from an academic standpoint you can see the leap. They brought up women from history who were horrible women as b!tches from history. Ernest Hemingway coined the term B!tch Goddess but even that was a slur and not a reclamation as it was coined and used against women by a man. Women have reclaimed the word b!tch though. We call ourselves b!tch or even each other. Freyja forbid a man to call a woman a b!tch. Even Meredith Brooks helped with the reclamation with the song Bitch. Gay men have also helped with the reclamation seeing as the word has been used to hurt them too. I can say from personal experience that being called a b!tch in friendship by a gay man is a warm fuzzy feeling.

Dick

Sarah Silverman does the intro for this episode. She does it well too. I kinda missed Mr. Cage doing it though. He did chime in at the end. Dick started as a name, a derivative of Richard. It is the only word in this series to have that honor. Mr. Cage makes a convincing argument as to why dick is perfect. Apparently, there is a secret museum that houses all the dicks taken off statues during excavation. Dick became a nickname for Richard because it rhymes with Rick. Then it was used in the same way that we use dude, hence the phrase “Every Tom, Dick, and Harry”. Then it became known as the handle for the riding crop. Mr. Cage is jealous of the name Dick being used rather than the name Nick. There are quite a few words or phrases we use for dick. Netflix has done really well coming up with video clips for each word that really nails the feeling home. Everyone weighs in on how much or how little on the offensive scale that dick is. It does really depend on the context and format. Saying dick isn’t as offensive as seeing dick. I now know why men name their dicks. They don’t want a stranger making decisions for them. Holy sh!t! I am dying over that! Mr. Cage saying naughty, naughty, naughty is very exciting.

Pu$$y

Mr. Cage beautifully describes the pu$$y while “painting”. Pu$$y is probably the most beautiful sounding swearword. It can sound lovely or vulgar. The earliest use of pu$$y was in the early 1500s and was applied to cats. It was then used as a term of endearment for women or as a term for a wife. Then it was used to refer to a woman’s no-no square. All of this happened relatively close to each other so it is hard to find the exact point it started being used and in what way first. Other words used for the term vagina are Honey pot, Garden of Venus, Quim-whiskers, and Cecily Bumtrinket, among others. In the 1890s there was a stage act, Folies-Bergere that was sisters that did a dirty stage act singing about their pussies. At the end of the song, they pull up their skirts to reveal live cats. Pussy has retained its original definitions the entire 500 years of its existence. It adds meaning in the 1930s or 1940s that degrades men. It means a weak or ineffectual man. Sarah Silverman talks about how people should be called ball sacks rather than pussies. I for one agree. The episode goes on to talk about the effect of pussy in the media and porn. Pu$$y is another word that women are working to reclaim. Rap in the 80s from groups like 2 Live Crew and NWA, did damage to women in the way that they used the word pu$$y and their portrayal of women, that reclamation is an uphill battle.

Damn

The mildest of all the swearwords is the closing episode. They start up with the famous scene from Gone With The Wind with Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara when Scarlett is asking Rhett what will she do. Mr. Cage says the line “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a whoop”. What?! Then with hoot, straw, and continental. Mr. Cage tells us we actually almost got “Frankly, my dear, it has become of no concern to me.” Back in 1939, we had something called the Motion Picture Production Code, which was a censorship code. Damn has become innocuous. It doesn’t make hardly a wave anymore. Damn, of all of the cuss words on here, is the only one that is truly a curse. Whether you are a Christian, Jew, Muslim, or a Witch, damn is truly a curse. You are sending someone or something to a not-so-nice place. Not necessarily Hell because not everyone believes in it but somewhere unpleasant. It is interesting how the one actual curse word in the series is the most benign of the words. In the 1100s and the 1400s, the word damn had a religious meaning and a legal meaning. Bother are meant to condemn but one spiritually and one mundanely. It comes from the Latin word Damnare which means to judge as guilty. Listening to how to use the word damn is so funny. All these swearwords can be used in so many ways. Even though damn itself is hardly a wave causer, today goddamn is still a taboo. Before the 1600s the French called the English “Les Goddamns” because they said goddamn so much. Back to Gone With The Wind, Selnick fought for the ok to use the word damn just like the author used. He won his appeal. Thank the Gods. (I really need to see that movie.) That made way for more uses of the word damn on the silver screen and later on TV. Damn has come a long way from Gone With The Wind. Kendrick Lamar won a Pulitzer with his album Damn.

I cannot recommend this show enough. It is fucking informative as well as entertaining. I love the clips of movies, shows, and interviews they use to emphasize points. I was damn impressed by the experts that came and spoke. Whether you have a dick or a pussy, don’t be a bitch and watch this. They really know their shit. Let me know what you think in the comments. Until next week…

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