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Swearing

SWEARING (O. Eng. swerian, to swear, originally to speak aloud, cf. andswerian, to answer, Ger. schwiiren, Dan. svaerge, etc., all from root swer-, to make a sound, cf. " swarm," properly the buzzing of bees, Lat. susurrus), the affirmation or uttering of a solemn declaration with an appeal to the Deity, some holy personage or sacred object as confirmation, hence the act of declaring the truth of a statement upon oath (see OATH and EVIDENCE). The common use of the word is for the uttering of profane oaths or curses. In English law, while blasphemy (q.v.) was at common law an indictable offence, cursing or swearing was left to the ecclesiastical courts. The Profane Oaths Act 1745 inflicted a sliding scale of fines for the use of profane oaths according to the rank of the offender, 13. for a common labourer, soldier or seaman, 25. for everyone below the rank of gentleman and 55. for those of or above that rank; procedure under this act is regulated by the Summary Jurisdiction Acts. By s. 8 of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 the use of profane or obscene language is an offence punishable on summary conviction by a fine not exceeding 405. or imprisonment not exceeding 14 days. The offence must be committed in a street and the act is confined .to urban sanitary districts or to such rural districts to which s. 276 of the Public Health Act 1875 has extended it. By s. 12 of the Metropolitan Police Court Acts 1839 a similar offence is punishable in the metropolitan police area, and various districts have put in force by-laws for punishing swearing, cursing, or causing annoyance in public places. The restriction as to the place where the offence must be committed to be liable to punishment has led to the enforcement on occasions of the Profane Oaths Act, which applies to the whole of England and Wales and is not limited to cursing in the streets. It should not, however, apply to obscene language.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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