Swear words ― just like slang ― reflect the time in which they are extensively used.
They are unstable and vulnerable to becoming archaic just as easily as they first entered someone’s vocabulary.
Also known as profanity, swear words are defined as vulgar and offensive, with the intention of using language to insult someone, act rudely or impolitely, or simply emphasize a point.
While numerous swear words that were in use hundreds of years ago still exist as part of the modern lexicon, there was a great number that have been lost in time.
Whether you are a “whiffle-waffle,” or an “arfarfan’arf,” you are sure to find yourself in one these Shakespearean insults that once rattled across busy markets and courts alike.
If you like this kind of language trivia, you’re in for a treat.
In the video below is a collection of profane words used by the English in the past several centuries, whose use has long ago been abandoned, as modern times brought in modern swearing.
It all seems as though it was a game of wits ― how to deliver a word that sounds hideous, comedic, and insulting, but also attributes to general personal characteristics, like hypocrisy, laziness, adultery, etc.
As far as the etymology of these words goes, many of them that remain in use today are most often of Germanic origin, rather than Latin.
However, words like “defecate” or “excrete,” “fornicate” and “copulate”, which evoke a more judicial terminology, have their roots in the language of the Romans.
As for the words that died out, in many cases, there was never a suitable replacement found. Therefore, words that summed up specific traits were lost for good.
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While today’s repertoire of insults seems fairly limited and over-used, the vocabulary of the past offers alternatives that in this day and age seem quirky, fresh and above all ― fun.