Steven Pinker tackles Washington's misguided crusade against swearing:
....over time, taboo words relinquish their literal meanings and retain only a coloring of emotion, and then just an ability to arouse attention. This progression explains why many speakers are unaware that sucker, sucks, bites, and blows originally referred to fellatio, or that a jerk was a masturbator. It explains why Close the fucking door, What the fuck?, Holy Fuck!, and Fuck you! violate all rules of English syntax and semanticsthey presumably replaced Close the damned door, What in Hell?, Holy Mary!, and Damn you! when religious profanity lost its zing and new words had to be recruited to wake listeners up.
The FCC was right that I think linguistic taboos aren’t always a bad thing. Fuck-peppered speech gets tedious, and malicious epithets can express condemnable attitudes. But in a free society, these annoyances are naturally regulated in the marketplace of people’s reactionsas Don Imus, Michael Richards, and Ann Coulter recently learned the hard way. It’s not clear why swearing on the airwaves should be the government’s business.
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