My son Ben is not allowed to swear. But there are so many different levels of swearing. For my parents, the f-word in English is already the limit. When I worked in London (which is admittedly a few years back now), the same held true. Up north — and I mean far north, in Edinburgh — the c-word was almost the only taboo left, and the f-word was completely normal. Now, I work with a number of Australians, for whom a sentence does not make sense unless it contains the f-word.
Ben gets a regular supply of Dutch swearwords from me, since I swear in Dutch (but speak English to him). His mother generally swears in English (but speaks Dutch to him). He’s 4 going on 18 right now. I’m pretty sure it won’t be too long before he is scaled the swear-ladder up to some more (un)reasonable levels. Logic would suggest that he finish at a level that his surroundings find offensive.
In Dutch, the most worst swear words revolve around nasty illnesses such as cancer or the ‘pox’, since the most offensive thing to say is to ‘get the pox’ (in Dutch at least). ‘Damn’ is godverdomme — literally G-d be damned. Ben has not yet discovered anything worse than a auditory smudging of the work into ‘getverdikkerie’, but even this is too strong, so now the most he is allowed to say is ‘potverdorie’.