Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing

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Audio available. Read for free today only Start free trial to read Read now Upgrade now to read Buy book. Send to Kindle. Who is it for? About the author. Language lovers Historians, anthropologists and students of cultural studies People who want to broaden their swearing vocabulary. Go Premium and get the best of Blinkist Upgrade to Premium now and get unlimited access to the Blinkist library.

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What is Blinkist? Start free trial. Key idea 1 of 9. The Romans swore like sailors, but about different things than modern people. Key ideas in this title The Romans swore like sailors, but about different things than modern people. The Old Testament saw the rise of religious swearing. Euphemisms are a no-no in the New Testament. Many contemporary swear words were commonplace in the medieval era, but religious swearing carried the most power.

Holy Sh*t by Melissa Mohr

During the Renaissance, obscenities relating to excrement made a comeback. In the Victorian era, obscenities became swear words as people began to use them figuratively. Today, a new class of obscene words carry the most weight — racial slurs. Final summary Start free trial to continue. Log in to Blinkist. Why were the Victorians so disturbed by gamahuche, godemiche and huffle?


In the early Middle Ages Aldred, a monk in Lindisfarne who produced the earliest surviving English version of the Gospels, rendered the Commandments as "Don't sin, and don't sard another man's wife". Bollocks, sard and cunt were not considered obscene words; insults were typically concerned with sexual immorality whore or dishonesty thief, robber, knave.

False swearing, which damaged God's reputation, was seen as far more serious than obscene language. However, in the 17th century the poetry of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, is awash with cunt, frig and prick. Obscenities replaced oaths as the words that shocked. Swearing on the Bible, which had cost men their lives in earlier generations, lost its potency. The Toleration Act introduced the right to affirm rather than swear before God, though when Lionel de Rothschild was elected as an MP in , and declined as a Jew to swear on the Bible, he was not allowed to take his seat.

Mohr identifies the 19th century as the Age of Euphemism. Words that described bodily functions were unmentionable. The Victorians found huffle a blow-job or fellatio "a piece of bestiality too filthy for explanation". Today we may smile indulgently at the Victorians but the 20th century had its struggles. Ulysses and Lady Chatterley's Lover needed trials in and respectively before they could be widely published, and the BBC continues to bleep words from interviews and songs.

Mohr identifies "nigger" as today's most taboo word. Overall, this clear-eyed book celebrates the "beautiful history" of swearwords and makes a strong case for the importance of swearing as a form of conflict that avoids physical violence. It should damned well be required reading for all politicians and commentators who seek to regulate the media.

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A Brief History of Swearing

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Holy shit : a brief history of swearing

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