I got curious one day about the difference between obscenity, profanity, and vulgarity. It’s easier once you break them down to their root words with their base definition: obscene is disgusting, profane was originally an act against religion , and vulgar is simply poor taste, tacky.
The real confusion begins with individuals, for everyone has their own idea of what is obscene, profane, or vulgar. I find Jerry Flynt’s Hustler magazine obscene, Muslim terrorists profane the Qu’ran, and Saddam Hussein’s preference for building palaces over helping his people to be vulgar.
…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.
|Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Dictionary.com|
|Part of Grammar:|
Behavior, appearance, or expression (such as films and books) that violate accepted standards of sexual morality
The character, state, or quality of being obscene
Something obscene, as a picture or story
An obscene word or expression, especially when used as an invective
|Irreverent or not respectful of sacred matters
Blasphemous or obscene language
Quality or state of not having good taste, manners, politeness, etc.
Something (such as a word) that is offensive or rude
|The book was banned for obscenity.
Some people believe that Robert Mapplethorpe’s work was an obscenity.
The men scowled and muttered obscenities.
In 1972, George Carlin was arrested for his monologue, “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television“and charged with violating obscenity laws.
The Hayes Code of 1930 laid out the rules of what would be considered obscene in the movies.
|There was an outburst of profanity.
God damn it!
My parents won’t tolerate profanity in the house.
Disturbing those burial sites is a profanity!
Different cultures have differing ideas on what constitutes profanity.
|He’s known for his vulgarities.
The bible was edited of its vulgarities to make it more acceptable (“What the Bleep Does the Bible Say About Profanity?“).
“As always, the British especially shudder at the latest American vulgarity, and then they embrace it with enthusiasm two years later.”
The nouveau riche are stereotyped for their vulgarity.
|Adjective: obscene, unobscene
Noun: antiobscenity, antiobscenities, obsceneness, unobsceneness
|Adjective: half-profane, nonprofane, profanatory, profane
Noun: nonprofanity, nonprofanities, profanation, profaneness, profaner, semiprofanity, semiprofanities
Adverb: unvulgarly, vulgarly
Noun: nonvulgarity, nonvulgarities, unvulgar, unvulgarness, vulgarness
Verb: profaned, profaning
|History of the Word:|
|First known use: 1580s
From the French obscénité from the Latin obscenitatem ( the nominative is obscenitas) meaning inauspiciousness, filthiness, which is from obscenus meaning offensive
In the 1610s, it meant a foul or loathsome act.
By 1690, it was meant as a sense of an obscene utterance or word.
|Mid-16th century from the late Latin profanitas, which is from the Latin profanus meaning not sacred.||First known use: 1579|
C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?