Swear words probably have been around since hieroglyphics, but they remained largely unwritten and unspoken for thousands of years.

It wasn't until the 10th century that the vulgar version of shoot was uttered publicly, and the naughty four-letter word referring to sex didn't surface until 1485 in a British poem.

Swear words weren't allowed in books here until 1950, according to James O'Connor, who has researched curse words for his book "Cuss Control: The Complete Book on How to Curb Your Cursing." Hence Norman Mailer's forced use of the word "fug," in "The Naked and the Dead," his 1948 novel about World War II.

So how did we get from there to 1999, when CBS became the first network to allow the scatological word to be uttered on an entertainment show?

Blame it on the dam-bursting '60s, says O'Connor. During the late 1960s and early '70s, movies began to use blue language to compete with television. Gradually the practice seeped onto TV through cable channels and then so-called pioneering dramas like "NYPD Blue," which began to push the envelope on sex and language as the mainstream became more comfortable with the taboo words.

And now, we've got those foul-mouthed third-graders in the cartoon "South Park." In O'Connor's opinion, it's a sign that society is straight on the path to you-know-where in a handbasket.

"If we all start talking like Cartman this will not be a nice place to live," he said, referring to the cartoon character on "South Park" who has a wicked way with words.