I was poking around in the OED tonight — that’s right, the Online Etymology Dictionary — and came across an article on the etymology of the word “shit.” Apparently there’s a mistaken belief in some quarters that it’s an acronym. Which strikes me as transparently false: If ever there was a good, solid, Anglo-Saxon sounding word, it’s shit. The article is a bit shrill in makings its point, but nevertheless it’s an interesting read.
In a similar vein, you might want to check out Jesse Sheidlower’s The F-word, which is both fun and enlightening, or, drifting a bit farther, On Bullshit, by the tremendously named Harry G. Frankfurt, which I read over the holidays and loved. Would make an excellent gift for a Wordie, or for yourself, if you’re planning on exchanging that copy of The Redneck Dictionary you got for Christmas.
For some reason all this reminds me of a paper I read long ago, by one Quang Phúc Ðông of the South Hanoi Institute of Technology (coincidentally my alma mater), titled “English sentences without overt grammatical subject.”
I’m not sure why it’s funny to take cuss words seriously, but it is.