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Was merde always used as often as it is today?

If not, what did it mean in the old days, when one was looking for les neiges d'antan?

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D'après le Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française ce mot remonte au XIIè siècle, et viendrait du latin. Il n'est fait mention d'aucun autre sens que l'actuel.

Quant à son usage écrit : si on le compare à des mots d'usage plus courant comme neige par exemple, il semble avoir connu une heure de gloire aux XVIè et XVIIè siècles pour décliner et ne redevenir significatif qu'à la moitié du XXè siècle. Mais sans être jamais tombé dans l'oubli cependant.

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Merda is a Latin word, often used, even by Horace. It was not coarse at all, they didn't use any euphemism or circumlocution. The word and its derivatives has been used by Rabelais (Garguantua & al.) with too much delectation - perhaps it started to be rude at that time ? But even Voltaire (Oreilles & al.) used it.

Nowadays, it can be an expression of surprise and joy, just familiar : "Tu te maries !? Merde alors !"

Beware about "antan", meaning "from last year", and not "a long time ago" like "jadis". "Mais où sont les neiges d'antan ?" (the famous poem by Villon was written in Spring) means : "they were very new, and they have already vanished"

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[Citations needed] –  Stéphane Gimenez Oct 1 '13 at 20:44
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