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Profanity, informally called cursing or swearing, is a show of disrespect, or a desecration or debasement of someone or something. Profanity can take the form of words, expressions, gestures, or other social behaviors that are social ly constructed or interpreted as insulting, rude, vulgar, obscene, desecrating, or other forms.


  • Jack was embarrassed—never hero more,
    And as he knew not what to say, he swore.
    • Lord Byron, The Island (1823), Canto III, Stanza 5.
  • Judge: Richard, since you chose to defend yourself and fire the public defender, I guess it's your turn to question the witness.
    Ricky: Thank you, Your Majesty.
    Judge: And Richard, before you begin, I'd like to say that I think this is a very bad idea. However, you do have a right to defend yourself, so proceed, but please remember to watch your language.
    Ricky: Look, I can't speak without swearing, and I've only got my Grade 10, and I haven't had a cigarette since I've been arrested, and I'm ready to fuckin' snap. So I'd like to make a request under the people's freedom of choices and voices act that I be able to smoke and swear in your courtroom. Because if I can't smoke and swear, I'm fucked! And so are all these guys. I won't be able to properly express myself at a court level, and that's bullshit! It's not fair and if you ask me, I think it's a fuckin' mistrial.
    Prosecutor: This man can't represent anyone...Your Honor! He's a complete and total idiot!
    Judge: Now although I am opposed to that kind of language in my courtroom, I'm going to allow it, as unfortunately it is part of your right to a fair trial. So you may proceed, but please, I want to remind you that this is not a carnival. Richard, you have permission to smoke and swear.
    • Mike Clattenburg, John Paul Tremblay, Robb Wells, Jackie Torrens, "If I Can't Smoke & Swear, I'm Fucked", Trailer Park Boys (May 4, 2003).
  • Everett: Well, you lying... unconstant... succubus!
    Vernon Waldrip: Whoa, whoa, whoa! You can't swear at my fiancé!
    Everett: Oh, yeah? Well, you can't marry my wife!
  • Bad language or abuse
    I never, never use,
    Whatever the emergency;
    Though "Bother it" I may
    Occasionally say,
    I never never use a big, big D.
  • Take not His name, who made thy mouth, in vain;
    It gets thee nothing, and hath no excuse.
  • There written all
    Black as the damning drops that fall
    From the denouncing Angel's pen
    Ere Mercy weeps them out again.
  • When I want my men to remember something important, to really make it stick, I give it to them double dirty. It may not sound nice to some bunch of little old ladies at an afternoon tea party, but it helps my soldiers to remember. You can't run an army without profanity; and it has to be eloquent profanity. An army without profanity couldn't fight its way out of a piss-soaked paper bag. … As for the types of comments I make, sometimes I just, By God, get carried away with my own eloquence.
    • George S. Patton; remark to his nephew about his copious profanity, quoted in "The Unknown Patton" (1983) by Charles M. Province, p. 184.
  • Obscenity is whatever happens to shock some elderly and ignorant magistrate.
    • Bertrand Russell, as quoted in Look (New York, 23 February 1954).
    • Cf. Russell (1928), Sceptical Essays, «It is obvious that "obscenity" is not a term capable of exact legal definition; in the practice of the Courts, it means "anything that shocks the magistrate".»
  • And then a whoreson jackanapes must take me up for swearing; as if I borrowed mine oaths of him and might not spend them at my pleasure.
  • When a gentleman is disposed to swear, it is not for any standers-by to curtail his oaths.
  • Do not swear at all;
    Or, if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self,
    Which is the god of my idolatry,
    And I'll believe thee.
  • For it comes to pass oft that a terrible oath, with a swaggering accent sharply twanged off, gives manhood more approbation than ever proof itself would have earned him.
  • "He shall not die, by God," cried my uncle Toby. The Accusing Spirit which flew up to heaven's chancery with the oath, blushed as he gave it in: and the Recording Angel as he wrote it down, dropped a tear upon the word and blotted it out forever.
    • Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1760-1767), Book VI, Chapter VIII.
  • Our armies swore terribly in Flanders.
    • Laurence Sterne, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1760-1767), Book III, Chapter XI.
  • The General is sorry to be informed —, that the foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing, a vice heretofore little known in an American army, is growing into a fashion; — he hopes the officers will, by example as well as influence, endeavor to check it, and that both they and the men will reflect that we can have little hope of the blessing of Heaven on our arms, if we insult it by impiety and folly; added to this, it is a vice so mean and low, without any temptation, that every man of sense and character detests and despises it.
    • George Washington; extract from the Orderly Book of the army under command of Washington, dated at Head Quarters, in the city of New York (3 August 1770); reported in American Masonic Register and Literary Companion, Volume 1 (1829), p. 163.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 773-74.
  • A demon holds a book, in which are written the sins of a particular man; an Angel drops on it from a phial, a tear which the sinner had shed in doing a good action, and his sins are washed out.
  • And each blasphemer quite escape the rod,
    Because the insult's not on man, but God?
  • In totum jurare, nisi ubi necesse est, gravi viro parum convenit.
    • To swear, except when necessary, is unbecoming to an honorable man.
    • Quintilian, De Institutione Oratoria, IX. 2.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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