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Anew is a relatively recent addition to the English language. It is the sanitized, slightly more well mannered version of one of the viler obscenities in English, a swear word that entered the lexicon about the same time as its cleaned up version. There is no precise synonym for anew—or its profane equivalent—in polite language. The closest we can come is “crook,” but that doesn’t begin to describe the depravity implied by the word.

Just as upright—or some would say uptight—people might say “heck” instead of “hell,” “darn” instead of “damn,” or “frig” instead of “fuck,” they are likely to also say “anew” instead of, um, er … Excuse us. Our faces are turning red from even thinking about the word we’re about to use. If you have any children present you might ask them to leave the room now. Either that or you should be prepared to administer some very judicious and sensitively worded parental guidance.

Here goes.

Forgive us for our language, but we feel there is no way we can properly define anew without stating the expletive that it stands in for in (somewhat) more genteel discourse. The vile obscenity is “agnew.” There. We’ve said it. Let’s move on before we fall further into the gutter, shall we?

No one knows the origin of the word anew or its much viler obscene cousin, but linguists first started noticing it in widespread common usage of the vernacular sort sometime around 1973. This roughly coincides with the resignation of the former U.S. Vice President Spiro A*new as a result of corruption accusations. Linguists aren’t certain, but they think there might have been a causal relationship in one direction or the other between that and the coining of the word anew (and the related word that shall not be spoken) as a synonym for crook.

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