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

By Geoffrey Hughes

This can be the one encyclopedia and social background of swearing and foul language within the English-speaking international. It covers many of the social dynamics that generate swearing, foul language, and insults within the whole variety of the English language. whereas the emphasis is on American and British English, the several significant worldwide forms, equivalent to Australian, Canadian, South African, and Caribbean English also are lined. A-Z entries conceal the complete variety 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 discovered expression. different types comprise blasphemy, obscenity, profanity, the categorization of girls and races, and modal types, akin to the ritual insults of Renaissance "flyting" and sleek "sounding" or "playing the dozens." Entries hide the historic measurement of the language, from Anglo-Saxon heroic oaths and the astonishing strength of medieval profanity, to the stern censorship of the Renaissance and the colourful, glossy language of the streets. Social components, corresponding to stereotyping, xenophobia, and the dynamics of ethnic slurs, in addition to age and gender variations in swearing also are addressed, besides the foremost taboo phrases and the advanced and altering nature of spiritual, sexual, and racial taboos.

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However, in Australian English, where the wide currency of the term has been commented on since World War I, it is used with a considerable variety of tones. A previous prime minister, Gough Whitlam, said in an address to his party in 1974 that he did not mind his political opponents “calling me a bastard. . But I hope that you will not publicly call me a bastard as some bastards in the Caucus have” (Sunday Telegraph, June 9). Sir Edmund Hillary, co-conqueror of Mt. ” The term can express compassion (“the poor bastard”) or even affection (“he’s a good bastard”).

The general term for this bawdy underground language, which thrived in Elizabethan times and was surprisingly elaborate, was cant. One of the first guides to cant, Robert Greene’s racy A Notable Discovery of Coosnage (1591), glosses various key terms in this fashion: The bawd, if it be a woman, a pander The bawd, if it be a man, an apple-squire The whore, a commodity The whore-house, a trugging-place. ” Although bawdy has retained its original meaning, the term is becoming obsolescent. See also: Dictionaries.

Cur and bitch are terms of such power that they have their own entries, as does son of a bitch, now well established in American English. Contemptuous terms for horses, such as jade and hack, have also lost currency and power. In English parlance rat is a term of deep contempt, meaning essentially one who has betrayed a party, a close confidant, or a lover. The original uses, dating from the late eighteenth century, referred to political deserters, alluding to the behavior of rats leaving a sinking ship.

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