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Nine Nasty Words: English in the Gutter: Then, Now, and Forever

John McWhorter

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One of the preeminent linguists of our time examines the realms of language that are considered shocking and taboo in order to understand what imbues curse words with such power--and why we love them so much.

Profanity has always been a deliciously vibrant part of our lexicon, an integral part of being human. In fact, our ability to curse comes from a different part of the brain than other parts of speech--the urgency with which we say "f&*k!" is instead related to the instinct that tells us to flee from danger.

Language evolves with time, and so does what we consider profane or unspeakable.
Nine Nasty Words is a rollicking examination of profanity, explored from every angle: historical, sociological, political, linguistic. In a particularly coarse moment, when the public discourse is shaped in part by once-shocking words, nothing could be timelier.

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