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Four-letter words

Posted by ESC on June 03, 2003

In Reply to: Four-letter words posted by S. Ryan on June 03, 2003

: I was listening to Joan Baez singing the Bob Dylan song, "Love Is Just A Four-Letter Word," and wondered at what point did 'swear' words or 'cuss' words become known as 'four-letter words?'

FOUR-LETTER WORD - " n. a word considered obscene, especially any of several monosyllabic English words referring to the sexual or excretory functions or organs of the human body. It has been argued that the emergency of this euphemism reflects a proliferation in the use of such words during World War I.1934 'American Speech'" For most people, the bare word forms of these four-letter words have become sexual fetishes." From "20th Century Words: The Story of New Words in English Over the Last 100 Years" by John Ayto (Oxford University Press, New York, 1999).