Social Question


For Flutherites 60 and over, in the 1950s and early 1960s, did people use vulgar language as much as they do today, and if they did use profanity, what sort of bad words did they use in those days?

Asked by MRSHINYSHOES (13966points) June 22nd, 2010

I have always wondered how people in the 1950s and early 1960s “swore” in everyday situations. Did they use the “f-word, the sh-word”, or any of the sexually explicit words that a lot of people (especially young people) commonly use today? If not, what sort of “bad words” did they use in those days? When I watch t.v. shows and movies from the 1950s and early 1960s, people seemed so “squeaky clean”, though I know that Hollywood did not present a totally clear picture of how people really were in those days.

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28 Answers

Cruiser's avatar

Dangit!! Dag Nabit….shucks! Jimminy Crickets!! Yark! ;)

john65pennington's avatar

No sir, they did not. before the freedom of speech became so prevelant, i think people respected each other more. instead of profanity, they used Tommy Guns to express how they felt.

Cruiser's avatar

I stand corrected!! Tommy guns it was!!


@john65pennington Tommy Guns? I never heard of that expression.

tinyfaery's avatar

The word fuck was first used in the 1800’s, way before the 1950’s. You act as if us youngins just made up all the bad words. We learned them from somewhere.


@tinyfaery Yes, you youngins didn’t make them, but you sure over-use and abuse them. Lol.

AmWiser's avatar

Are you kidding, my mom use to cuss like a sailor as they say (never heard Pops say a bad word). Mom’s cursing vocabulary was limited to shit, damn, goddamn, hell, and ass (I know sailor’s cursed more then that) . I only remember her cursing around her siblings; but back then I wasn’t even suppose to be in the same room as the adults.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Red Skelton knew all those vulgar words. But he didn’t have to use a single one to be funny. Now if you go to a comedy show, all you hear is vulgarities.

Jeruba's avatar

It was much less common. Those words go way back, centuries back, and have always been used by some, but they were not familiar in the common speech of most people.

Honestly and truly, I never heard the expression “bullshit” or heard the word “whore” until I was in college, didn’t know what they meant, had not heard any slang for male or female body parts, and did not know what most of the slang for various kinds of sexual activity was or what it meant. I had seen the word “fuck” scrawled on a school door and seen teachers get very upset but had no idea what it was. I had led a somewhat sheltered life before college, but I went to public schools and lived in a middle-sized Eastern city. They were simply not everyday language. People who used them were generally viewed with disapproval.

On TV you didn’t even hear “hell” and “damn.” They were just not there. They were rare enough in movies.

It’s not that we didn’t have free speech. The Bill of Rights gave us that. It was just mostly used to express opinions and not to numb us with vulgarities.


@WestRiverrat Excellent point! Yeah, most stand-up comedians these days use vulgarities because they don’t really know how to be clever.


@Jeruba Thanks for your input. I believe you and others here like john pennington. I was watching an episode of the old t.v. show “Leave It to Beaver” the other day, and little Beaver yelled “Aw, gee whiz!!” His father Ward Cleaver looked at him disapprovingly, and said “Beaver!” Nowadays, even little 6 year-olds use the “F-word”. My, have times changed. What happened?? Sigh.

augustlan's avatar

I think it may have depended on what type of family you grew up in. My grandfather (who died not too long ago in his 80s) not only swore quite freely, but also openly expressed racism, antisemitism, and sexism in as vulgar a way as you can imagine. He was quite the class act. ~

eden2eve's avatar

I think that in my parent’s generation it was believed that an articulate person did not need to descend to vulgarity to communicate effectively. And, as @WestRiverrat and @MRSHINYSHOES said, the media wasn’t exposing the children to these words as it does today. It just wasn’t done in polite company, and anyone who did it was looked at as a radical. Those weren’t quite so cool then.

FutureMemory's avatar

Before rap became popular (mid 80s) there was almost zero profanity in mainstream music. It’s just a matter of taboos being cast aside as the culture evolves – whether that’s good or bad is a matter of opinion.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I find it surprising to hear that it was such a vast difference. My paternal grandparents both cursed like nobody’s business. My parents are a bit younger than the age group this question was directed to, but they also swear pretty regularly. I’m pretty sure they have my entire life.
@eden2eve do people swear in polite company now?

crankywithakeyboard's avatar

You mean people waiting in line at the DMV weren’t be subjected to a woman yelling every curse word imaginable, especially the f word? And they weren’t threatened when they asked the “person” to use different language?

Must have been nice.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

My parents were born in the early ‘20s, and Dad occasionally used “Hell” or “Damn”. Mainly though, he just used, “Beans!!” My S/O and I do not use curse words in public or private.

P.S. Does anyone remember controversial performer Lenny Bruce?

janbb's avatar

“Bad” words were the same “bad” words but they were rarely used so they had real power when they were, cf. Lenny Bruce as @Pied_Pfeffer says.


@TheOnlyNeffie I think that’s true that some people in those days cursed like crazy, but the “particular words” they used in those days were not as vulgar or as obscene. I doubt people in those days threw around “fuck”, “cunt”, “Christ”, or “mother-fucker” like they do today. More likely they cussed a lot of “damns”, “hell”, or “ass”. The words used have gotten more vulgar and obscene (although they’ve always existed). Also, much more young people today than yesterday use these words freely and anti-socially. :(

augustlan's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES Psh. You’ve obviously never met my grandfather. ;)

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@augustlan lol, I was thinking the same thing.


@augustlan and @TheOnlyNeffie There may have been one or two around in those days like your granddad, but more likely than not it was not commonplace like it is today. People just didn’t use fuck, Christ, cunt, motherfucker, etc. IN PUBLIC in those days like they do now. In general, there was greater social consciousness and higher moral standards. :(

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES oh no, I don’t doubt you. It was just semi surprising to me to hear it, since I grew up with my grandparents swearing up a storm regularly. And they were both highly respected members of the community. I have no idea if they swore in public (I’d assume not), it was just interesting to learn. I guess I hadn’t thought of it any other way after having listened to them my entire life.


@TheOnlyNeffie Yes, and the demography is different now too. In those days, young people, teens for example, did not use fuck, Christ, cunt, etc. like they do today. These days, it’s like part of their everyday lexicon. Older people may have sworn here and there back then, but with the younger set it was very rare indeed compared to now. :(

tinyfaery's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES You are exaggerating. I know very few people who use profanity as loosely as you are implying.


@tinyfaery Where have you been? Just hop on a city bus after school or visit any place where teenagers hang out these days. You’ll get an earful! There’s no exaggerating my friend.

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