—Clint Johnson, on Facebook
I personally don't buy the "gol-darn-it" school of thought regarding "Deadwood." I believe all those soft swear words were put into use by mothers and church going people, perhaps in that time, but certainly in the time I grew up (1950s). My grandmother—Minnie Hauan Bell—liked to say, "What in the Sam Hill!" and there are a ton of these replacement swear words. I don't think any self-respecting miner, gambler or gunfighter in the Old West ever walked into a saloon and said, "What in tarnation is goin' on in here?"
At any rate, I put the question out to our contributing editors and staff and here are their thoughts on the subject:
Historians Weigh In On Swearing By Swearengen
"Did miners and soldiers curse, especially in saloons--of course they did. Did they cuss in front of women and children--never, unless they wanted to get shot by an outraged husband, brother or bystander. Is the cursing in Deadwood overdone--of course it is. Language changes over time--recall the language we regularly heard in the 1950s as opposed to the language today (a total reversal on the commonality of the F-word and the N-word). The language in Deadwood was used for shock value because it was pay-cable TV and they wanted to see what they could get away with and distance themselves from broadcast TV. Its TV, not history."
—Paul Hutton, A Distinguished Professor of History at The University of New Mexico
"I truly believe that many miners and other resident of Deadwood did, but the Deadwood series went too far. This was, after all, the Victorian era and the words damn and hell were considered offensive! So, no, the whole damned town didn’t drop the f-bomb in every sentence.
—Sherry Monahan, Contributing Editor, True West magazine
"Deadwood got it right--profanity was part and parcel of normal, everyday talk in the mining camps and frontier towns. The words most often associated with the show--the long ones dealing with carnage knowledge? I don't think those were used, for the most part (although the "f" word was). And even rough-hewn miners and cowboys held their tongues a tad around a lady. Folks wanted to retain some veneer of sophistication and class."
The fact must come home to every observer that Deadwood's rising generation is very depraved. Go where we will our ears are greeted with profanity and obscenity from almost baby lips, while our vision is assailed by sights of the most lamentable character. These urchins are not all of that peculiar class known as "hoodlums" for whom ignorance is some excuse, as many of them receive the kindest and best instruction at home, but from too lenient parents who allow their children to wander through the city, visiting haunts of iniquity where are exerted those pernicious influences which sooner or later deaden the most acute sensibility, destroy all sense of right and morality and inspire to an emulation of the worst characters of the town.