Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing

Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing

Hardback

By (author) Melissa Mohr

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  • Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
  • Format: Hardback | 336 pages
  • Dimensions: 142mm x 220mm x 28mm | 520g
  • Publication date: 30 May 2013
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0199742677
  • ISBN 13: 9780199742677
  • Sales rank: 35,345

Product description

Swearing is a fascinating thing. Almost everyone does it, or worries about not doing it, from the two year old who has just discovered the power of the potty mouth to the grandma who wonders why every other word she hears is obscene. But more than its cultural ubiquity, swearing is also interesting for what it tells us about language and society, today and in the past. It is a record of what people care about on the deepest levels of a culture- what's divine, what's terrifying, and what's taboo. Holy Sh*t tells the story of two kinds of swearing - obscenities and oaths - from ancient Rome and the Bible to today. With humor and insight, Melissa Mohr takes readers on a journey to discover how 'swearing' has come to include both testifying to the truth with your hand on the Bible and calling someone a *#$&!* when they cut you off on the highway. Mohr explores obscenities in ancient Rome-remarkably similar to some of the things you might hear on the street today-and unearths the history of religious oaths in the Middle Ages, when swearing was a matter of life and death. Holy Sh*t also explains the advancement of civility and corresponding censorship of language in the 18th century; considers the rise of racial slurs after World War II; and answers a question that preoccupies the FCC, the U.S. Senate, and anyone who has overheard little kids at a playground recently-are we swearing more now than people did in the past? A gem of lexicography and cultural history, Holy Sh*t is a serious exploration of obscenity - and might just expand your repertoire of words to choose from the next time you shut your finger in the car door.

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Author information

Melissa Mohr holds a Ph.D. in Renaissance Literature from Stanford. This is her first book.

Review quote

not for the fainthearted, but is a wonderful read and full of wit and wisdom and scholarship. Kevin Rafferty, Handai Global Bloody hell, this is a good book! Heretofore swearing has not attracted many authors and publishers. Melissa Mohr puts that right in this pithy, amusing and thoughtful study. Mark Fisher, The Independent {Radar} One of the most absorbing and entertaining books on language I have encountered in a long time. Washington Post Mohr constantly surprises and delights - and does so without ever being offensive. Ben East, The Observer This is an expansive, scholarly and wonderfully witty survey of 3,000 years of dicks and deities, turds and taboos, from the Old Testament onwards. Sam Leith, The Guardian Melissa Mohr's book is learned, charming and - if one had read it 50 years ago - utterly filthy ... a dead cert for the next loo book of the year. John Sutherland, The Times {Saturday Review} A fascinating trawl through Man's use of swearing, from Roman times to the present. The Times intelligent and enjoyable The Wall Street Journal Europe So, would I recommend this book? Absofuckinglutely. Patricia Canning, Babel Magazine all good dirty fun. Colin Burrow, London Review of Books This is an utterly delightful book. It's beautifully written, witty and in many places laugh-out-loud funny. It's also a serious book. She looks her subject matter square-in-the-face. Jo Ind, The Third Way not for the fainthearted, but [Holy Sh*t] is a wonderful read and full of wit and wisdom and scholarship. Handai Global

Table of contents

Introduction ; Chapter 1: Romana Simplicitate Loqui: To Speak with Roman Plainness ; Chapter 2: On Earth as It Is in Heaven ; Chapter 3: Tearing God to Pieces: The Middle Ages ; Chapter 4: The Rise of Obscenity: The Renaissance ; Chapter 5: How Trousers Became Unmentionable and Legs Disappeared Altogether: The 18th and 19th Centuries ; Chapter 6: The Law and Science of Swearing: The Twentieth Century ; Conclusion