Over at the blog The Daily Dish someone posted a link to a map of American profanity. The map is color-coded. In the bright-red areas, people swear a lot. In the black spots, people use more polite language.

The map reminded me that we have a couple of books on swearing at SPL.  Expletive Deleted: A Good Look at Bad Language, is a thoroughly entertaining linguistic study of swearing and insults, in which the author unearths the etymologies of profane expressions, clarifies the difference between invective, vulgarity and blasphemy (you were just wondering about that, weren’t you?), and explains why the foul language of one society often doesn’t translate to another. The author also explores swearing in languages that technically don’t have swear words. For example, in Japanese theoretically no words are taboo; however the language includes many lexical variants of the pronoun ‘you,’ some of them so insulting as to render any equivalent of our coarser Anglo-Saxon terms  superfluous.

If you wish to further pursue an interest in off-color language you might avail yourself of Hugh Rawson’s Wicked Words: A Treasury of Curses, Insults, Put-Downs and Other Formerly Unprintable Terms from Anglo-Saxon Times to the Present. You can learn all the ways in which the word “Dutch” used to be a term of denigration and empathize with the various writers who have struggled in vain to re-introduce the sixteenth-century insult “clinchpoop.”

And if you do incorporate any expletives you learn from these books into your repertoire  of profanity, please don’t use them in the library.

Or at least keep your voice down.


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