Phillip's Reviews > Swearing: A Cross-Cultural Linguistic Study

Swearing by Magnus Ljung
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's review
Mar 04, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: linguistics
Read from February 08 to March 04, 2012

This book is slightly better than ok.

The book takes a multilingual approach to swearing. It identifies types of swearing such as Ritual Insults, Name Calling, and Unfriendly Suggestions. It gives a history of swearing. The mechanisms of swearing are explored. All of these are done well enough.

In the end I don't understand why we swear. Categorizing, the history of, and the linguistic mechanisms do not explain why we insert uglinesses into our speech, especially when those uglinesses are space holders or not taken seriously as part of the message expressed. I don't buy that they are successful in expressing strong feeling nor are they usually very good at ornamenting language use.

I have been puzzled by swearing since sometime in the middle of elementary school when the other children started saying "Oh, god!", "god", and "hell". It isn't that I haven't sworn myself. There have been times when I have pursued swearing enthusiastically, but alas, I don't believe I was very good at it. I was doing it because I thought the person I wanted to be swore in a certain way.

Eventually, it was inertia that shut down my swearing, tobacco use, and drinking. They meant so little to me on their own that they weren't worth the spit of energy it would have taken to maintain the habits. Yet, I am interested in why it is such a wide spread habit when it doesn't do much one way or the other. This book does not answer that question.

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02/12/2012 page 10
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