Magazine November 1, 2021, Issue

The Uses of Profanity

(AusVideo/Getty Images)
Nine Nasty Words: English in the Gutter — Then, Now, and Forever, by John McWhorter (Avery, 288 pp., $24)

Swearing, or cursing, is slang often with blasphemy, sometimes with physiology, more recently with personal insult added. Men traditionally swore more than women, but there is some evidence that the gap here is slowly closing. Some settings — prison, the athletic field and locker room, the military — are difficult to imagine free of swearing. When I was in the Army I once heard a fellow soldier say, “The motherf***ing mother f***er motherf***ed me,” a sentence I still admire for its economy.

Swearing can also be artful. In my late adolescence I worked with a man named Bob Larman, a man

To Read the Full Story

This article appears as “Expletives Repeated” in the November 1, 2021, print edition of National Review.

Something to Consider

If you valued reading this article, please consider joining our fight by donating to our Fall Webathon. Your contribution makes it possible for us to continue our mission of speaking truth and defending conservative principles.

If you valued reading this article, please consider joining our fight by donating to our Fall Webathon.

 

Support Our Mission
Joseph Epstein — Mr. Epstein is the author, most recently, of Gallimaufry, a Collection of Essays, Reviews, Bits.

In This Issue

Articles

Features

Books, Arts & Manners

Sections

Recommended

The Latest