Today’s word is Damn—as in “Damn, I can’t find a magic word starting with D.” Then again, damn is a common curse word. It comes from a Latin word which means “to inflict loss on or to judge or to doom” and we still use it that way.
In America, the word was not commonly—if ever—used in print or film until Margaret Mitchell wrote and Rhett Butler said it in Gone with the Wind in 1939. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” And who in their right minds would censure Clark Gable? Generally, damn is considered a religious expletive. To some Christians it indicates either condemnation of God or at the very least an infringement on whichever commandment tells you not to take the Lord’s name in vain.
I think of it in more traditional curse terms—if you say “God damn you” to someone, you are asking God to send the miserable miscreant before you to Hell for eternity. In America we use it as a noun “ I don’t give a damn”, a verb “Damn the torpedoes”, an adjective “Where did you get the damn(ed) car?”, an interjection “Damn, that’s good.” Sometimes we try to soften it by saying darn or writing it dam, but we really mean damn.
A few other usages caught my attention if you are interested.
Tinker’s dam—Tinkers work with molten metal. They use a bit of clay as a dam to keep the molten metal where it’s supposed to be, then the dam is discarded—and so a tinker’s dam is of low value. Using the phrase I don’t give a tinker’s dam is probably a way to soften the curse damn as well as to indicate the worthlessness of the speaker’s regard for whatever the topic of conversation is. Tinkers were known for their bad language—understandable when you consider how often a bit of that molten metal would have splashed on fingers, faces, appendages. from http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/tinker%27s_damn.
Hot damn appeared in print in the 1920s in the book Wildcat by Hugh Wiley. As with many words and behaviors, it may have been familiar long before that. Once it appeared in print and the world didn’t end, other writer’s added it as well. from http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/20950/where-does-hot-damn-come-from.
As I looked up the etymology of Damn, I came across lots of other profanities and have become convinced that if one studies the use, spread, changes in profanity, one will be able to trace the evolution of human thought, as well.
If you have other insights into the word damn or if you want to tell me what other D word I could have used today, feel free to leave a damn comment.