What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves - Benjamin K. Bergen

A couple of books published recently have tackled the heretofore taboo yet titillating topic of taboo/profane words. This is the one that I just happened to buy but I guess that it could have been anyone of them. The title was read by the author and I usually avoid self-read titles because just because you can write beautifully doesn't mean that you are pleasant to listen to for multiple hours. Bergen is an exception to the rule; he reads as well as he writes. The book is nicely organized. It has a basis in scientific research and is filled with anecdotal evidence to support the points he is trying to make. He writes for a broad audience not academia.

 

Warning, if you hearing/reading taboo/obscene/profane language in any context offends, this book might not be for you. Bergen's over-all intent is not to offend but to explore the topic and discuss its social ramifications. Four-letter words are here to stay; we might as well learn a little bit more about them.

 

If nothing else, this book made me think and it made me want to set my thoughts to paper. I don't have a problem with declaring some words to be taboo--particularly slurs. In fact, I am actually in favor of it. Except for slurs, I also don't have a problem with judiciously using taboo words in my own speech. However, I think that one should not use them with impunity (that is the way I was brought up); there is a time and a place and an appropriate audience. I still don't drop f-bombs in front of my parents, who I don't think I have ever heard use the word, and I don't regularly sprinkle my speech them (to the effect that when I use them, they are powerful!). I don't full agree with Bergen's take on our attempts to censor speech.  I'm in favor of censorship on the airwaves and of ratings of TV, movies and videogames that protect my right not to have to hear any of these words or to have my children hear these words. It should be up to me when I want to hear taboo speech and under what circumstances. I'm not against free speech; I'm just against those who think that just because they say it that others want to hear it or even have to react positively to their utterances. If you insist on peppering each sentence you utter with f-bombs this that and the other, you will soon find that we aren't having very many conversations. Daddy always said that smart people don't need to use taboo language to express themselves and that has always formed the way I try to speak. But yeah, I'm no goody-two-shoes; I do have my moments.