Description: This is the only encyclopedia and social history of swearing and foul language in the English-speaking world. It covers the various social dynamics that generate swearing, foul language, and insults in the entire range of the English language. While the emphasis is on American and British English, the different major global varieties, such as Australian, Canadian, South African, and Caribbean English are also covered.A-Z entries cover the full range of swearing and foul language in English, including fascinating details on the history and origins of each term and the social context in which it found expression.
Categories include blasphemy, obscenity, profanity, the categorization of women and races, and modal varieties, such as the ritual insults of Renaissance flyting and modern sounding or playing the dozens. Entries cover the historical dimension of the language, from Anglo-Saxon heroic oaths and the surprising power of medieval profanity, to the strict censorship of the Renaissance and the vibrant, modern language of the streets. Social factors, such as stereotyping, xenophobia, and the dynamics of ethnic slurs, as well as age and gender differences in swearing are also addressed, along with the major taboo words and the complex and changing nature of religious, sexual, and racial taboos
Review(s): ...[A] delightful and instructive volume... These are probing, intelligent essays in which the study of language becomes an archaeology of human experience. Times Literary Supplement...a fascinating reference work on the history, sociology, and literary uses of foul language and profanity. ... Engagingly written and diligently researched, the entries provide helpful information to both lay readers and scholars and include useful bibliographies. The work also offers superb ready-reference information on hard-to-find arcane information.... This work is highly recommended for academic and major public libraries. Booklist
Hughes takes a scholarly, reasonable, informative approach to a potentially offensive topic as he presents the origin, development, and usage of swearing terms and phrases, ranging from sacred and solemn oaths of commitment to the basest forms of slang. ... Each entry presents a thoroughly well-written, well-researched, informative explanation of the overall development of a particulary significant portion of human language and culture. Highly recommended. All levels. Choice