When “nuts!” was taboo

What’s a nice interjection like nuts! doing in a place like Strong Language, home of brazen epithets and unexpurgated swears? Nuts: such a mild word, so fusty and old-fashioned, so suitable for children’s tender ears.

Well, it wasn’t always that way. For several decades in the middle of the 20th century, nuts and its facetious cousin nerts were deemed so inappropriate that they were forbidden—along with, but not limited to, whore, SOB, damn, hell,  fanny, and slut—in the scripts of Hollywood movies. (Needless to say, fuck and shit were too scandalous to merit mention.) It took a famous World War II battle, and the gradual loosening of the censorious rules known as the Motion Picture Production Code, to bring nuts, nerts, and nuts to you into semi-respectability and finally to quaintness.

Habanero Honey Peanut Butter from Nuts to You, “the leading nut house in Philadelphia”

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You bet your asterisk!

It’s a hard-knock life for advertisers looking to titillate buyers into paying attention. Back in the day—say, 2018—you were guaranteed to provoke when you used asshole to sell your bidet or dropped a barely acceptable AF onto a package to give your wipes a boost. Now, though, commercial swears are so common that  you can name your candles Pretend to Give a Shit and get away with it—even at the US Patent and Trademark Office.

When the old swears no longer shock, what’s an advertiser to do? One answer: swear-ify inoffensive words by inserting asterisks into them.

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“History of Swear Words” on Netflix

We’re pleased AF to let you know that “History of Swear Words,” will launch on Netflix January 5, 2021. The series—six 20-minute episodes—will consider the etymologies, false etymologies, and usage of six classic swears:  fuck, shit, dick, bitch, pussy, and damn.

We’re especially pleased that one of our Strong Language co-fuckers, lexicographer Kory Stamper, was one of the consultants for the show. The other experts include cognitive scientist and author of What the F Benjamin Bergen; linguist Anne Charity Hudley; professor of feminist studies Mireille Miller-Young; film critic Elvis Mitchell; and author of Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing Melissa Mohr.

Nicolas Cage will host.

More details here. And let’s hope for a second season so we can delve into assholecuntcocksucker, and other sweary faves.

Sweary holiday gifts

Yes, 2020 has been a shitshow, but at Strong Language we still observe the niceties—or the naughtyties—of ritual and tradition. Here are gifts that evoke the spirit of the season and the whole fucking year.

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Douchebags and Schiit: How do they get away with it?

When Nancy Friedman, who writes about sweary brand names for Strong Language, discovered a California audio-equipment company called Schiit and a Norwegian travel-bag company called Douchebags, she couldn’t keep the story to herself. She emailed trademark lawyer Anne Gilson LaLonde, who’s written for Strong Language about “scandalous” and “offensive” marks, and asked: WTF? What follows is their online conversation, condensed and edited for clarity. Style note: We’re following the convention in trademark law to use all capital letters for trademarks. When referring to the business itself, we capitalize only the first letter of the name.

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