ellesieg (ellesieg) wrote in 1word1day,
ellesieg
ellesieg
1word1day

Tuesday Word: cuss

Despite having spent most of my life living in a small town in the south-eastern US, my diction is far from country. I blame it on my mother, a Pennsylvanian, and shyness. Even these two forces combined were not enough to fully insulate me from my surroundings, but I am not and never have been a Southern Baptist, and over time, the Deep South has just about lost its already tenuous grasp on my manner of speaking. I can still fake a convincing southern accent, but it no longer takes over when I'm angry. I stopped saying "dang" once I summoned the courage to switch to "damn." And when I started using the internet and realized that most people said "swear" and "curse," I stopped saying "cuss."

To cuss is to utter expletives (you may cuss at someone or cuss someone out), a cuss word is a swear word, and a cuss is a swear word or an annoying or annoyingly stubborn person -- someone who makes you want to cuss. Until today, I thought that my father's "lazy cuss" was simply a cleaner version of "lazy f***," with the cuss in question having no notable qualities aside from a strong aversion to work or a seeming inability to get out of bed at a decent hour. I also assumed that "cuss" was unique to the southeastern US, when actually its usage is much more widespread. It hails from England, was absorbed by some American dialect or other, and is currently in common use all over the United States, and, given its origin, perhaps outside of it as well, though I was unable to find confirmation of this.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, cuss the verb is an alteration of curse and was in use by the early 1800s. Cuss the noun, however, was in use by the late 1700s and while it may also come from "curse," it's equally possible that it is a shortening of "customer," which, as a slang term, and as used by Shakespeare, means "prostitute." Hmmph. Maybe I should be glad I skimped on this year's Father's Day present.
Tags: adjective, c, english, noun, verb, wordsmith: ellesieg
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