Profanity

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Profanity, also known as bad language, swearing or cursing (or cussing) is the usage of words which are considered to be offensive or abusive. Its use is taboo in polite or formal environments, and more commonly accepted in informal contexts. Profanity is particularly common in traditionally masculine settings. This has led to the introduction of phrases such as "to curse like a sailor".

Profane words tend to involve certain near-universal subjects: filth, particularly human waste; forbidden sexual practices; and blasphemous treatment of the sacred. However, it is the words themselves, and not the concepts they represent, which cause offense, as there are numerous words to signify any taboo subject, with varying levels of acceptability. Among profane words, there exist at least two levels of offensiveness. There are also, in many languages including English, euphemisms such as darn, drat, gosh, frap and so on.

Over time, the perceived offensiveness of some expressions can change. One example is the expression by Jove, an archaic contraction of by Jehovah, which sounds delicately quaint to modern listeners, but which was once among the most profane phrases in the English language.