Author Topic: Books on Obscene Language  (Read 300 times)


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Books on Obscene Language
« on: February 21, 2017, 03:40:03 AM »
Having come across a link to an excellent review of a couple of new books over at the forum, I thought I'd share it here. No doubt the books themselves are interesting, as well as other earlier books mentioned in the review, but for those who are interested in the history of words, how they reflect changes in society, and even their effects on our brains, the review itself is a worthwhile read. "‘Fuck’-ing Around" | The New York Review of Books

Many exclamations that now seem to us merely quaint were once “minced oaths.” Criminy, crikey, cripes, gee, jeez, bejesus, geez Louise, gee willikers, jiminy, and jeepers creepers are all to Christ and Jesus what frigging is to fucking. The shock-shift from religion to sexual and bathroom matters was of course due primarily to the decline of religion, but Mohr points out that once domestic arrangements were changed so as to give people some privacy for sex and elimination, references to these matters became violations of privacy, and hence shocking.

[. . .]

The very sound of obscenities—forget their sense—seems to ring a bell in us, as is clear from the fact that many of them sound alike. In English, at least, one third of the so-called four-letter words are indeed made up of four letters, forming one syllable, and in nine out of ten cases, Bergen writes, the syllable is “closed”—that is, it ends in a consonant or two consonants. Why? Probably because consonants sound sharper, more absolute, than vowels. (Compare piss with pee, cunt with pussy.) It may be this tough-talk quality that accounts for certain widely recognized benefits of swearwords. For example, they help us endure pain. In one widely cited experiment, subjects were instructed to plunge a hand into ice-cold water and keep it there as long as they could. Half were told that they could utter a swearword while doing this, if they wanted to; the other half were told to say some harmless word, such as wood. The swearing subjects were able to keep their hands in the water significantly longer than the pure-mouthed group.

[Continues . . .]
« Last Edit: February 21, 2017, 04:41:34 PM by Recusant »
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Re: Books on Obscene Language
« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2017, 08:02:47 AM »
Interesting, thanks for the heads up, Rec.
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Re: Books on Obscene Language
« Reply #2 on: February 21, 2017, 10:02:52 AM »
I'm just a student of the game that they taught me.


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Re: Books on Obscene Language
« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2017, 08:44:14 PM »
When I read the title of this thread, I thought it was a book about COBOL  ;).
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