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An Encyclopedia of Swearing: The Social History of Oaths, by Geoffrey Hughes

By Geoffrey Hughes

This can be the single encyclopedia and social heritage of swearing and foul language within the English-speaking global. It covers many of the social dynamics that generate swearing, foul language, and insults within the complete variety of the English language. whereas the emphasis is on American and British English, the various significant worldwide kinds, equivalent to Australian, Canadian, South African, and Caribbean English also are coated. A-Z entries disguise the whole diversity of swearing and foul language in English, together with attention-grabbing information at the background and origins of every time period and the social context during which it came upon expression. different types contain blasphemy, obscenity, profanity, the categorization of ladies and races, and modal forms, comparable to the ritual insults of Renaissance "flyting" and sleek "sounding" or "playing the dozens." Entries hide the old size of the language, from Anglo-Saxon heroic oaths and the magnificent strength of medieval profanity, to the stern censorship of the Renaissance and the colourful, sleek language of the streets. Social elements, similar to stereotyping, xenophobia, and the dynamics of ethnic slurs, in addition to age and gender ameliorations in swearing also are addressed, besides the main taboo phrases and the complicated and altering nature of spiritual, sexual, and racial taboos.

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Extra info for An Encyclopedia of Swearing: The Social History of Oaths, Profanity, Foul Language, And Ethnic Slurs in the English-speaking World

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A number of Geoffrey Chaucer’s contemporaries used the alliterative scheme, notably William Langland in his huge spiritual poem Piers Plowman, creating many powerful satirical 6 ANATHEMA effects: thus in the section on the Seven Deadly Sins, Gluttony “pissed in a potel [a large bottle] a pater noster while” (Passus B V l. 348). In a memorable condemnation of the corrupt clergy of his time, Chaucer refers to “a shitten shepherd” (General Prologue l. 504). ” In the Chester Play (ca. 1500) a character is denounced as “a shitten-arsed shrew” (l.

For “bloody fool,” from about 1925. ” 3 ABBREVIATIONS Laurence Sterne contrived a wonderfully absurd situation exploiting evasions of taboo language via abbreviation in his highly eccentric (and popular) novel Tristram Shandy (1760– 1767). In Book VII, chapters 20–25, the carriage of two French nuns is mired in a bog, and it is only by uttering two unmentionable words that they can encourage their mules to pull them out. ” There follow embarrassed whisperings between the nuns (which the reader cannot overhear), and it transpires that the two taboo terms are bouger (bugger) and fouter (fucker).

Developments in later decades show that Aborigine and Aboriginal are being reclaimed by the population. Aborigines are of special interest to this study since they have in their own verbal culture a convention of compulsory insult. Donald F. Thompson showed, in his researches among the Australian Aborigines in northern Queensland, that an elaborate etiquette of swearing existed among the tribes of the area, based more on social position than content. Thompson found that except in the presence of certain relatives, “there is no restriction upon reference to the genitalia or the physical functions of reproduction, defecation, and micturition” (1935, 465).

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