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Why Is Damn a Bad Word?

March 13, 2017

(image via wikimedia)

Of course, damn is a bad word.  It’s not the worst of the profane words, but most people wouldn’t want to say it in public.  It’s four letters, which is a sign that it’s a bad word, and it means that you’re cursing somebody or something to Hell.  Hell is also thought of as profanity (though I disagree), and when a bad word implies another bad word, then it’s really a bad word.

For one thing, it’s pretty bad to curse somebody to Hell.  Hell is a horrible place to go, and it’s for eternity, so that should be reserved for only a select few.  If people said damn occasionally, then I wouldn’t be so concerned.  But people damn each other for stuff like minor road infractions, and I don’t think anybody should suffer eternal damnation in Hell just because of a rude traffic incident.

Putting God in front of damn is the worst of the worst of profanity.  I haven’t ranked profanity from worst to least offensive, but God in front of damn would be in the top one or two.  It’s one thing to damn somebody yourself, but when you invoke God to damn somebody, that’s serious.  I’ve done it a few times in my life, and I’ve always regretted it, and I’ve always privately asked the higher power not to take my earlier request literally.  I think God understands.  If not, a bunch of people are screwed.

It’s okay to damn inanimate objects.  If I stub my toe on a table or hammer a nail into my thumb, it’s okay to damn the table or hammer or nail.  They’re nonliving things, so they don’t care.

If a table ends up in Hell for eternity, the table doesn’t care.  Maybe the tortured souls down there need tables, nails, and hammers too.  Maybe part of their eternal torture is to stub their toes and hammer nails into their thumbs for all of eternity.

What do you say in Hell when you stub your toes or nail a finger?  If you say “Damn!” or “Dammit,” it’s too late because everything down there is damned already.  It’s probably too late to say “Heaven help me.”  Then again, some religions say it’s never too late for “Heaven help me.”  I hope I don’t need to find out.

Damn isn’t the most fun of the curse words to say, but it has some fun variations.  Damnation is fun.  Dammit is fun to say quickly.  A junior high teacher years ago used to say “Hot diggety damn!” whenever he got excited, and that was fun, but I never did that in public.

Decades ago, some of my friends pronounced damn with two syllables so that it came out “day-um.”  That usually meant that they were impressed with something.  They could also do that with “shee-it.”  Extending a four-letter swear word into two syllables is the best.

It’s easy to replace damn with a fake word that doesn’t bother anybody.  It’s okay if you say “Darn it!” or “Dang it!” in public.  You can even halfway invoke God by saying “Dagnabbit!” or “Goshdurnit” or “Guldernit.”  Oddly enough, I’ve never heard anybody say “Durnit!” or “Nabbit!” by themselves.  Maybe I was born a generation late for that.

Like most bad words, damn has been around longer than most people think.  According to the dictionary, the first usage of damn can be found in the 13th century, and its Latin roots go much further than that.  I’d guess that when you consider Latin roots, damn and Hell are the oldest of the English swear words.

Even though it’s not as bad as a lot of swear words, I wouldn’t say damn in front of my parents, at least, not without the word Hoover in front of it.  When I was a kid, I was willing to take a chance with hell or crap or even b*tch, but not damn.  If you’re a kid, don’t do it.  It just isn’t worth the risk.

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From → Etymology

6 Comments
  1. Damn it all, or damn it all to Hell.

  2. Dammit, you make me smile…as always!

  3. I really like the idea of damning all kinds of consumer goods to hell because a hell full of hype-marketed, shoddy goods would truly be a horrible place….kinda like a Discount Room at Wal-Mart. [shudder]

  4. Anonymous permalink

    damn is a word that show an emotion, the people that use the word is influence by the social group that they live… what ever it is, its just a kind of emotion that people show and say…

  5. Udit permalink

    Over here in England, most people don’t give a damn if you say damn! B*tch – headmaster’s office. Hell – Who the hell cares? Ass – miss recess today and tomorrow. Damn, you won’t find it in most kid’s cartoons, but in the movies, they are a tiny bit less than frequent. Over here, damn is probably the least offensive, since it’s an unspoken society rule (at least that’s what I think is an unspoken society rule) that if someone damns something they probably don’t mean it in a literal sense, just another way of saying ‘OUCHHHHH’, ‘Niiiiiiiccceee’, or ‘Go to hell!’

  6. Disagree permalink

    Are you kidding me? Damn is one of the mildest curse words – if a child wants to express frustration in the form of a curse (which is going to happen, let’s face it – and I totally agree with Stephen Fry on how swearing is actually a healthy way of getting it out of your system) then I would actively encourage them to use ‘damn’ or ‘crap’. Far better than using ‘fuck’ or ‘shit’ – or worse.

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