We've always cussed, we always will:
Every language, dialect or patois ever studied, living or dead, spoken by millions or by a small tribe, turns out to have its share of forbidden speech, some variant on comedian George Carlin's famous list of the seven dirty words that are not supposed to be uttered on radio or television.
Two interesting insights in the article: 1) Cursing helps us get rid of stress and anger. 2) Cursing helps us relax -- the people we feel most comfortable with are the ones we're most likely to curse in front of.
At The News-Sentinel, we're in the midst of reviewing and updating our profanity policy, which is more or less like those of most newspapers. Reporters aren't to use stuff on the forbidden list unless it is deemed crucial to the story and is approved by a senior editor. Most of the list isn't surprising, though the inclusion of "damn" with all the Carlin-type words seems a little too much.
Profanity policies might seem a little quaint in this day and age, especially since newspapers are now online, which means we link to all kinds of Web sites with all kinds of language. But consider the universal nature of profanity and the way it has been used in all cultures to sort out what kind of relationships we have and how loose we are with certain people. No one who writes for any mass medium, be it print or blog, should assume he's writing for just his best friends. Most of the readers will be strangers. We wouldn't feel comfortable cursing in their presence, so why would we just because we aren't there to gauge their reactions?