Whilst I was sat on the bus yesterday, I overheard a group of teenagers discussing various things. As per the usual social requirement at that age, every 5th word was an expletive. Not exactly the best ambiance for my journey home, but it got me thinking.
What specifically about the words "fuck", "shit", "cunt", etc. makes them so vulgar? Clearly they represent negative things in society, but what makes those particular words so important? Also, what makes words with similar pronunciation characteristics (e.g. "crap" and "damn") so much milder?
I'm aware that there will be some complex etymology of each, but what I'm really interested in is the structure and formation of the word itself. Why aren't "dotard" or "popinjay" considered to be curses, when "fuck" is? At certain times they held similar sentiments.
Is there something specific about how we pronounce them that makes them superior in situations where cursing is required? I'd also be interested to know how this works in other languages, too.