History of Swear Words

history of swear words poster review episode guide
7.0 Overall Score

Answers some questions everyone is afraid to ask

Feels like an uncensored VH1 show

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Plug your ears if you are afraid of naughty words!

Why do words have power, and why are the words that aren’t supposed to be said so fun to say?  Nicolas Cage hosts a deep dive into the popular swear words and why minced oaths still have a place.  From the words’ origins to their use in popular culture from Gone with the Wind to the President of the United States, swear words are getting their day on TV…even if they still make viewers blush and giggle.

History of Swear Words is a Netflix six-episode comedy documentary series.  The series was released on January 5, 2021.

Swear words are always a funny subject.  You can see a person get shot in the face in a movie, but the use of swear words is still highly regulated.  Like restrictions on nudity, it does not make much sense in the bigger picture.  Damn, Pussy, Dick, Bitch, Shit, and Fuck all get their chance to shine!

history of swear words nicolas cage host

Sit back, grab your cognac, and enjoy a touch of vulgar class

The show generally goes in reverse order of what you’d expect.  It starts out hard with “fuck” then goes down to “damn” by the end.  It is a bit of odd negative progression.  It is a definite choice and demonstrates how words lose power over time, but it also feels a bit anticlimactic to be talking about “damn” after all the other words…especially when damn has a lot of origins to swear words in general.  The flipside of that is that it is harder to talk about the stronger swear words in reference to damn if they haven’t been explored yet.

Nicolas Cage is the perfect host for the show.  He’s made a career out of intentional overacting and swearing has been part of many of his films.  While many actors would be hesitant to take on this goofy role with seriousness, Cage dives right in and feels natural.  He’s joined by comedians Nick Offerman, Sarah Silverman, Open Mike Eagle, DeRay Davis, Nikki Glaser, Patti Harrison, Joel Kim Booster, London Hughes, Isaiah Whitlock Jr., Baron Vaughn, Jim Jeffries, and Zainab Johnson.  The historical context is handled by Anne H. Charity Hudley, Benjamin K. Bergen, Mireille Miller-Young, Elvis Mitchell, Kory Stamper, and Melissa Mohr.

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The graphic displays are fun…but it also feels like you need more time to study the timeline

The problem with History of Swear Words is that the tone is never quite reached.  The balance between history and humor is pretty lopsided and the way the series is presented feels kind like a VH1 special like I Love the ’90s or I Love Toys.  It is a bit too light and non-substantial in its presentation.  It could have gone a bit more serious at points without losing the humor.

History of Swear Words actually answers some of the questions you’ve always had about swear words but you have to wade through the series and filter it to really get to the root.  It is better than getting the information from Urban Dictionary, but it also feels that if you really want to get to the meat of why a swear word is a swear word, you could find it elsewhere and in less time.  It raises a lot of good points about race and context which would be harder to do in a smaller context, but it still feels like a lot of fluff that could be cut out…which is a damn shame.

History of Swear Words Episode Guide:

history of swear words fuck episode guide


Episode 1        Fuck Release Date:  01/05/21

Nicolas Cage beings looking at the history of swearing by exploring the origin of “Fuck” and why people swear, the use of “fuck” in movies, and how it is used in comedy.

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Episode 2        Shit Release Date:  01/05/21

“Shit” and its past is explored and how shit became a swear word.  Nicolas Cage explores the versatility of the word “shit” and what swearing can do for you.  Plus, how “the shit” came to be.

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Episode 3        Bitch Release Date:  01/05/21

“Bitch” is a slur that has gained in popularity.  How the word can be used to demoralize or empower is explored by Nicolas Cage.

history of swear words dick episode guide


Episode 4        Dick Release Date:  01/05/21

How did Richard aka “Dick” become a swear word?  The rules behind “dick” and censorship is looked, and Nicolas Cage looks to see why people like to draw “dicks”, and why people send “dick pics”.

history of swear words pussy episode guide


Episode 5        Pussy Release Date:  01/05/21

A vagina is a “pussy”…but where the nickname come from?  How did slang for a cat evolve into slang for a woman’s reproductive organ or a weak man…Nic Cage explores.

history of swear words damn episode guide


Episode 6        Damn Release Date:  01/05/21

Nicolas Cage looks into one of the earliest curse words.  How “damn” started out as a condemnation, became a curse word, and now lost its power…but why “goddamn” still riles people.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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