Every known language has words that are taboo, that speakers aren't supposed to say. Yet these very words are said; simply put, people swear. In This Book is Taboo: An Introduction to Linguistics through Swearing, rather than condemning swearing or the people who swear, Randall Eggert applies the tools of linguistics, the scientific study of language, to understand how swearing functions in language--and in speakers. In an engaging and often playful manner, this textbook investigates swear words from many directions:
- What purpose does swearing serve?
- Which concepts are likely to lead to swear words?
- Why are some words more offensive than others, even when they mean the same thing?
- What makes a word "bad?"
- Is there a grammar to swearing?
- Which words do different cultures see as taboo?
- How do your race, sex, ethnicity, religion, age, social class, etc. affect the way you swear?
- Do men swear more than women, and, if so, why?
- How does swearing change over time and where did some of today's swear words come from?
- How is swearing in a foreign language different from swearing in your native language?
- What happens in the brain when you say or hear swear words?
- Why are swear words more acceptable in some situations than others?
- How do the FCC and other authorities determine what is acceptable to say and what is not?
This textbook is intended for anybody interested in language and the role swearing plays in it; no background in linguistics is required or expected. Readers are cautioned, however, that vivid, graphic, and potentially offensive examples are used to illustrate ideas, concepts, and theories. You cannot discuss taboo language adequately without violating some taboos; hence, this book is taboo.
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Chapter 1, Introduction: Taboo Words and Swearing
Part I: The Bawdy Basics
Chapter 2, Grammar, Grammar, Grammar
Chapter 3, “If You Say ‘Jehovah’ Once More ...”: The Use/Mention Distinction
Chapter 4, What We Mean When We Talk about Meaning: The Informational, Emotional, and Social Aspects of Meaning
Chapter 5, Do Swear Words “Just Sound Bad”?: The Arbitrariness of Language
Part II: The Dirty Details
Chapter 6, X-Phemisms: The Good, the Bad, and the Straight
Chapter 7, Fornicating Under Consent of the King vs. *Pug: Historical Swearing
Chapter 8, Morphofreaking-phonology
Chapter 9, Taboo Sentence Structures
Chapter 10, Tabernacles, Names, Menses, Animals, and Mothers-in-Law: Cross-Cultural Taboos
Chapter 11, Learning to Swear in a Second Language
Chapter 12, This Is Your Brain on Taboo Words: Psychoswearing
Chapter 13, Socio-Swearing: Do Men Do It More Than Women?
Chapter 14, “When You Call Me That, Smile”: Context
Chapter 15, Deleting Expletives