Nine Nasty Words: English in the Gutter – Then, Now, and Forever
By: John McWhorter
I have never heard my father swear in my lifetime, and it is my understanding that he never heard his father say a bad word either. Maybe that is why the idea of swearing, “bad” words, or curse words has always fascinated me. I always wondered why one word for posterior, excrement, or various body parts would be considered vulgar while another is not. Who decided which words could be said in polite company, and when did they decide it? I have also always been intrigued by the fact that almost everyone I know uses foul language to some extent, yet everyone I know also pretends that they are offended or scandalized by it to some extent or in some circumstances.
If you, like me, have spent your life wondering about things that have little impact on your actual life you will love this book. McWhorter goes over a list of nine words and breaks down where they came from, when they became taboo, and how some of them used to rule the roost and are now seen as barely profane. The book is delightfully funny, deeply insightful, and contains an gleeful amount of swearing. In fact, I don’t think I have ever experienced such skillful use of the lingua vulgaris in my entire life, and I have worked on a construction dirt crew, attended a farming community high school, and served as a military mechanic. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.