George Carlin had his "Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television"
Frank Zappa discussed the concept on "Crossfire" in 1986 (and told his belligerent rival to kiss his ass).
Matt Groening started listing "Forbidden Words" in 1980 - which has kicked off a new form of cultural criticism and even a software app.
Linguists point out that swearing is a universal feature of language:
"Every language, dialect or patois ever studied, living or dead, spoken by millions or by a small tribe, turns out to have its share of forbidden speech."
The BBC applies statistics on offensive words.
A blogger recently posted the stats here.
Excerpt: When I went to meet the editorial policy/legal people at the BBC, the first thing I wanted to know, as you can well imagine, was this: which swear words am I allowed to use?
I was shown a ranked list of rudeness. It was every bit as entertaining as I had hoped, but to my disappointment, there was no possibility of removing this fabulous document from the room. I don’t like to paint too much of a melodramatic picture, but the offending piece of paper was physically removed from my hand (I think they had the idea that I would scan it, post it on my blog, and write an article about it).
Anyway, I mentioned this to someone else from the BBC at a party recently: she sent me a copy this morning, and as you can see, I have indeed scanned it and posted it on my blog. Disappointingly the list turned out to be from a report which is freely available in the public domain here, but that doesn’t stop it being almost as funny as I remember.