Magazine December 19, 2016, Issue

A Course on Cursing

In Praise of Profanity, by Michael Adams (Oxford, 272 pp., $17.95)What the F: What Swearing Reveals about Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves, by Benjamin Bergen (Basic, 288 pp., $27.99)

In In Praise of Profanity, Michael Adams argues plausibly that the threshold for what counts as profane (or obscene, or vulgar, all related but not synonymous concepts) is vague and radically context-dependent. I can write “douche bag” out, for instance, and the editors of National Review can’t do anything about it. The fact that this is a book review about dirty words provides plenty of evidence that I mean “douche bag” in the indecent sense, to be sure — but that evidence is circumstantial. And, besides, I took out a little extra insurance by using a space between “douche” and

In This Issue

Articles

Features

Books, Arts & Manners

Sections

Politics & Policy

Letters

American Interests and Obligations Mr. Nordlinger raises a legitimate question as to the extent to which Americans should be prepared to commit military resources, i.e., American lives, in furtherance of our ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ Say what you will about Twitter, it’s an improvement over Josh Earnest. ‐ President-elect Donald Trump has appointed Alabama senator Jeff Sessions to be the next attorney general. Sessions is ...
Politics & Policy

Poetry

MOVING Worn chairs with no seats cluster where A mirror gives back a dull stare At memories of other times. As leather books are losing rhymes, They tumble from a cardboard box Where fossils hide, within ...

Recommended

The Latest