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Wicked Words: A Treasury of Curses, Insults, Put-Downs, and Other Formerly Unprintable Terms from Anglo-Saxon Times to the Present
by Hugh Rawson
The author of Crown's A Dictionary of Euphemisms and Other Doubletalk has fun at the other end of the language spectrum in this witty, anecdote-filled guide to the many impolite, insulting, and just plain "bad" words with which the English language is blessed. Line drawings.
Paperback, 448 pages
Published September 1st 1992 by Three Rivers Press
(first published September 1st 1989)
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I bought this book when I was smart-aleck teenager and, far from making me an insult filled jerk, I think it helped me become a better person. It may be trite to say it this way, but by taking the mystique out of so many of the epithets and insults that we use to hurt each other, reading this book took the "power" out of them for me. They became another subject for study. That "anything" is fair game for academic study was a revelation to me. It helped set me on the course to living a life free ...more
Though there weren't very many words or phrases in this book that I wasn't already familiar with, it was still a good read. I was interested to discover the history and original meanings of commonly used insults. For example, did you know that 'harlot' originally meant beggar? Or that it then went on to mean male scoundrel? It's only recently that it started being used for whorish women.