The Function of Profanity in Modern English Chapter 1- Introduction and Clarification Since the beginning of the English language, there have existed certain words that were considered by the majority to be taboo, or not to be spoken in polite discourse. Over the centuries, these words have changed, some disappearing from the language altogether and some simply taking on new meanings or functions. One wonders why, if these words were considered too rude to be spoken, they were ever used, and consequently, how they remained a fixture in a language known for its passing trends and short-lived fashions. Could it be that these words were, and are, essential for communication? Would the English language be as effective without these words? Are efforts to repress them futile? Does the popularization of such vocabulary create the need for new words with the same taboo status as the original words? To summarize: Does profanity serve a useful purpose in the English language? In order to answer a question this complex, certain guidelines must be set. The word "profanity" has a long list of taboo words associated with it, not all of which can be accommodated within such a short study. It is therefore necessary to limit which words we consider. Since this is a study of modern English, the words should be representative of the kind of profanity used today. In his superb study "Swearing," Geoffrey Hughes said: .A major shift has occurred in comparatively recent times in that a quite different emphasis has become dominant. The 'lower' physical faculties of copulation, defecation and urination have come very much to the fore as referents in swearing. Therefore it seems appropriate to choose a set of 'four-letter words' in American English, known by American linguists as the "Big Six," which range from mildly to extremely taboo and also cover these 'contemporary' topics in swearing. They are: fart, piss, shit, fuck, cock and cunt.