The Intricacies of Swear Words in History 18 January 2016 The life of an explorer is governed by words, writes Michael Ondaatje: ‘By rumors and legends. Chartered things. Shards written down. The tact of words. In the desert to repeat something would be to fling more water into the earth. Here nuance took you a hundred miles.’ It is easy to see as you flit from language to language and culture to culture, the myriad of expressions and idioms could take a lifetime to truly explore. One of the most compelling and varied areas is the nuance of cursing.