History of Swear Words Movie Review: Can I say this in a Newspaper?


Jackson Piercy

Nicolas Cage, pre-swear-ridden tirade. Photo courtesy of imdb.com.

With a year like the one previous, it’s only appropriate that Netflix treats us to not just the extensive use of profanity, but also learns the audience a thing or two. Whether the origins lie in Doutch verbs, terms for female animals or the worst of religious punishments, “History of Swear Words”gives you exactly what you expect, and I’d dare to say quite a bit more.

A delightfully cheesy Nicolas Cage and a cavalcade of comedians, rappers and linguistics experts talking about words that would certainly get my rear end whipped in days of yore in a similar vein to describing a fine wine or a piece of art. Although, who’s to say the words themselves aren’t art?

They go back, all the way back, to look at how the words came along, the funky (but fake) origins of these words, and how they came into the vulgar lexicon. Each episode is devoted to one word, and at being about 20 minutes a piece, they make for a quick binge. Just make sure that Grandma isn’t watching, lest she faint at the sheer volume of profanity. I’d say they make liberal use of every word in every episode, but that would be doing it a disservice.

They discuss the social implications, the physiological effects, the reclamation of slurs, the people who say them and why they say them. I wouldn’t venture to find much more than what is discussed in the show, and it’s all with the proper amount of class that such a subject requires.

What I think is most interesting about the show is how swear words are determined. How the words that we can’t say are referring to what society holds most dear. It’s no accident how they came along, but it is quite odd how we chose those specific words to not say in professional environments because that’s just how it is. It could’ve been “nincompoop”, “charlatan”, “hogwash,” but those don’t hold the same weight. Obviously, you know what they are but because of the same arbitrary rules I can’t say them here.

Throwing my opinions aside, the show is a lighthearted tone and list of prolific potty-mouths walk us as far back as ancient Rome to tell us about how we feel about extremities and cats and all other matters of excrement. I especially like Isiah Whitlock Jr.’s exhibition of the longest exclamation of feces that television has ever known. It’s like hearing Hulk Hogan saying “brother” or the 45th president saying “frankly,” it comes so naturally to Mr. Whitlock.

What more can I say than “it’s really good?” Unless you’ve been living under a rock in the middle of the woods, get on Netflix (or steal your roommates’ password) and get to watching! It’s all the cuss-filled action you could ever ask for, all in a neat two-hour package.