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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2020 John McWhorter (P)2020 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"Rollicking, salty, learned, and intensely informative, John McWhorter's Nine Nasty Words is a grand tour through the history of the profanities we (sometimes) abhor and (sometimes) revel in (and sometimes both), peppered with cameos by everyone from Geoffrey Chaucer and Cole Porter to Tallulah Bankhead and the too-little-known singer-songwriter Lucille Bogan, still making people blush 70-odd years after her death, God bless her. I laughed frequently and learned plenty." (Benjamin Dreyer, New York Times best-selling author of Dreyer's English)

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