Swearing is Changing—And That's a Good Thing

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Back in 1939, the Production Code Administration required that David O. Selznick defend the use of the word "damn" in his film “Gone with the Wind.”

Fast forward to present day, and basic cable programs—from "Mad Men" to "Breaking Bad" to "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"—have no problem using stronger words, and with greater frequency.

But it’s not just scripted shows that feature swearing these days.

In recent weeks, the Federal Communications Commission announced that they would let the use of a certain "F word" on live TV go without fine under a certain circumstance. That word was uttered by David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox when referring to the Boston marathon attacks.

Have we gotten a tad too lax about swearing these days? Do we swear more than we should? Or is there something bigger going on?

As John McWhorter sees things, our idea of profanity is changing—and he believes that’s a good thing. McWhorter is a linguistics professor at Columbia University and author of “What Language Is.” He joins The Takeaway to discuss the evolution of swearing and it's integration in present day.

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