Even some of our most storied and longest-lasting profanities have proven susceptible to a gradual weakening in the face of changing social norms and technology-aided taboo-sapping overuse.
Today’s Slate.com explains, in the excerpt below: “Damn, hell, shit, and fuck are not what an anthropologist observing us would classify as ‘taboo,’ ” says linguist John McWhorter, author of What Language Is: And What It Isn’t and What It Could Be, among other books. “We all say them all the time. Those words are not profane in what our modern culture is—they are, rather, salty. That’s all. Anyone who objects would be surprised to go back 50 years and try to use those words as casually as we do now and ever be asked again to parties.”
“As McWhorter notes, even fuck—the super-badass, cannot-be-effed-with, undisputed heavyweight champion of all curse words—has not escaped the passage of time with the full force of its offensiveness intact. Sheidlower, who is also editor of The F-Word—a comprehensive volume that delineates the impressive history of the word fuck, as well as its many uses and variations that have cropped up throughout the English-speaking world—is perhaps the world’s foremost expert on this topic. He has studied the progression of the word with precision and scholarly zeal. There are, he says, “a number of things going on with fuck.”
“For starters, there’s that all-important connection to sex. “We are no longer as outraged by public discussions of sexuality as we were in the past,” Sheidlower notes. “So even the sexual uses of the words are not as strong as they used to be, and the non-sexual uses are that much weaker still. However, it is true that the increasing quantity of non-sexual uses has weakenedfuck’s taboo status further. Most uses of fuck today are non-sexual.”
More at: http://www.slate.com/articles/life/the_good_word/2013/07/swear_words_old_and_new_sexual_and_religious_profanity_giving_way_to_sociological.2.html