Welp, it’s time we was discussin’ cussin’. It’s a cussed subject an’ some folks can get mighty cussed about it. Use a cuss with the wrong person an’ you might get a cuff on yer head. Or yer hands! Or at least a stern discussion. Or some kinda repercussion.
Funny thing ’bout cuss. It jus’ has that percussive sound. Like a concussion. It has a hard stop at the start an’ then paffs off into a soft hiss passin’. Sorta like a box hittin’ the floor an’ slidin’. An’ the heart of it is just the most neutral an’ central vowel you kin get. So it sorta fits with the sound o’ the kinda word it describes, with that sound o’ hittin’ or a tire burstin’. I’m sure you kin think o’ some o’ them cuss words, with their percussive sounds, an’ maybe it won’t be too bad if I point out that “cuss” said backwards is “suck.” But if you wanna know more an’ you don’t mind readin’ a whole lotta cusswords, there’s an article on it on Strong Language, which is a whole blog on the topic. If y’don’t like the sweary stuff, yer better decussin’ that site. (That’s a fancy way of sayin’ “X it out.”)
Why do people cuss anyways? Seems like breakin’ a rule breaks a bit o’ tension too, relieves stress, accordin’ to some science (same blog, so watch out). Makes ya feel better, right up to the moment yer ma washes yer mouth out.
So this word cuss, it comes from curse. American dialect. Jus’ drop the r an’ y’get somethin’ much more percussive. No curlin’ or growlin’ like a scurvy cur, just a quick back o’ the hand. Loses the literal sense of callin’ down divine wrath, just becomes words workin’ like a hit to the head.
Heck, some people would say you kin give someone a cussin’ out without usin’ any actual cusswords. An’ a person can be cussed without ever bein’ cussed at, because cussed – that’s two syllables there – means ‘stubborn, pigheaded’. But cusswords, well, now, those are cross words, an’ words you don’t use in crosswords.
How about all those other cuss words, like discuss, concuss, percussion, an’ so on? All from the same Latin root, the cuss comin’ ultimately from quatere ‘strike, shake, dash’. The exception is decuss, which we usually say decussate (when we say it at all), which comes from decussis, which means the number ten, which was written X, which is what you make if you decussate. So you decussate to make a cross, but if someone makes you cross, well, then, you jus’ cuss.