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3.7 out of 5 stars
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3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 10 November 2010
What a cracking book! It is really erudite in terms of the etymology of all the common (and uncommon) swear words. But, just as important, there is so much insight into the role of taboo language for the individual and society. It also covers the change in our attitude to swearing. Most sexual swear word are no longer the ultimate taboo; that has been overtaken by racist epithets. However, Peter Silverton also looks at the role of swearing in different types of societies and how different languages produce swear words. This was particularly fascinating. On top of that it was extremely funny. Peter Silverton has a wickedly dry sense of humour. I learned so much from it and also enjoyed reading it immensely.
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on 13 February 2011
Absolutely fascinating book. Full of very detailed descriptions of how certain words originated and what seemingly inoccuous words they are contected to. There is so much information packed into this book that I'm only reading about four pages a night - it is so enjoyable as well. It's not a light or silly read - more quite a serious look at language with some light hearted digressions. The sections which explain puns from Shakespeare, Marvell and other writers are brilliant! Suitable for those people who are genuinely interested in how language originated rather than for those looking for a cheap thrill. I thoroughly recommend it!
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on 1 August 2011
I was drawn to this book purely for the cover, I was intrigued to know its contents and, not normally my genre of reading, however I decided to take a chance. I am glad I did this was a really fascinating read I loved (nearly!) every page on it. Certainly not for the faint-hearted!! There is no shying away from the more explicit words or explainations for their origins. But absolutely brilliant I really did enjoy the majority of this book, the last few chapters about censorship etc becomes a bit more anecdotal and wasn't as interesting as the other chapters.

However, I would highly recommend this book to anyone, with or without an interest in language, this is a fabulous read!
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VINE VOICEon 27 September 2011
It's odd that much of the content of this book is unable to be quoted here. Why is swearing censored? Which swears are the worst? Why are English swear words different to others around the world? And why is it so very difficult to swear properly in another language? All these and many other questions are, if not answered fully, certainly pored over with the punctilious obsession of one whose trade uses the currency of language. This is not a small book, and will take you a while to work through. Not because it's dull: far from it, but because the amount of material is incredibly densely packed. Each page has at least one juicy morsel to chew on (usually more), pulled in from a mixture of memory, conversation and academic investigation.

The topics run from the biological to the profane, taking in Pompeian graffiti (including the rudest Latin swear word, landica), why there aren't that many swear words relating to the female form and the origins of the "Yo' Mama" swear. In between we see the differences in the mechanics of black and white US swearing, a brief history lesson about Aztec Mexico and trying to find out when the first f- word in recorded music turned up. All are fascinating, frequently witty and written with a certain lightness of touch that, in the hands of another, could have made for a rather leaden read. But it really isn't: it's a riot, and frequently illuminating to boot.

Well worth the money.
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on 19 April 2012
As someone who is fascinated by language in general, and certainly partial to the odd choice expression, this was a book I approached with great anticipation. The opening lines (available to view as a preview) promised a personal and witty account of the author's journey through the subject matter, and I was primed to suck up interesting insight into the history and etymology of our more colourful phrases. Unfortunately, though, I was disappointed on both counts.

With no particular structure or overall narrative, the book at times seems to simply comprise long lists of the various insults and curses used around the world. In common with many English schoolchildren, I have in my life spent time looking up swear words in a French dictionary. This does not, however, mean I wish to read a whole book about it.

To break up the monotony, the author sprinkles in liberal doses of what are presumably meant to be light-hearted anecdotes and witty reflections on a serious subject. Ranging from the inane (the time he used a Canadian French word that was ruder than he'd realised), through the self important (realising that the gap in literacy between himself and the poor working class black girls he was teaching was simply insurmountable, and that they'd never pull themselves out of their current situations), to the downright irrelevant (how his wife's grandfather played a role in the creation of the state of Israel), these in fact read as an expression of how interesting he thinks he is. Perhaps I missed something, but I wasn't exactly gripped.

Each chapter starts with an "interesting" aside on some period of the author's life (most of which include a frankly impressive number of name-drops), and each drags on at the same turgid pace. By the time I reached what could have been a very interesting discussion on the changing face of taboo - how racial slurs common 30 years ago are now unthinkable, while the opposite is true of traditionally vulgar sexual terms - any enthusiasm I may have started with was sorely diminished.

I had great hopes for this book when I bought it - now I'm just glad to have finished. Disappointed.
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on 5 August 2013
I really liked this book! I am interested in words and swearing in particular so this was a really good read for me. The only reason I didn't give it 5* was because it does seem a little bit overlong with a bit of padding, however I would really recommend it to anyone who is broad-minded and interested in the way language changes and develops.
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on 28 November 2009
I had great fun reading this book. I defy anyone to get through a chapter without reading some fact or quote - or several - to a partner or friend. Peter Silverton gives us a well-researched history of cursing, debunking many myths along the way, so that use of the (very funny) index makes this a handy reference for all those 'Where did the word ---- come from?' arguments. And who would have thought it of Emily Bronte? There are forays into effing on record (long, long before rap) and blinding around the world (from Canadian churches to the Russian underground). Silverton knows his popular culture (he was a journalist on music and broadsheet papers), and the book is up-to-date on current broadcasting debates. He also uses insights from linguistics and psychology to understand the many stories about swearing which his interviewees and sources seem to have enjoyed relating to him. This is a book to renew your delight in all language: 'filthy' is an F-word, but so are flexible, forceful, funny and free.
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on 10 November 2014
This is the kind of book you initially want to like, but in the end it falls short of the mark. The main problem is the author - he is a tad too full of himself and has not done his research very well. The author admits to not being someone who is trained to know stuff about languages and their use, yet it doesn't stop him from venting all sorts of little theories about why things are the way they are, based on his own experience or intuition. This makes that the book sometimes feels scholarly, but the scholar actually has no clothes. To make matters worse, the author has clearly not even used such a simple and obvious tool as Google to do fact-checking. His remarks about Dutch and Swedish swearwords (which I happen to be very familiar with) are mostly just wrong (and many simple mistakes, such as the spelling of 'kut' -not 'kot'- could have easily have been prevented using Google or an independent source) - I suspect his selection of languages was determined by his circle of friends and that he has believed everything they told him without checking. Again, very unscholarly behaviour. Finally, the author also has an annoying habit to drop names of famous people he knows or knew ('a bit') where this has absolutely no relevance for the subject matter. So, while there is some interesting content, the pretentiousness of the author makes this only a very average book.
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on 6 January 2014
Well I thought it was going to be boring as the preamble is , bbut no as I've got into the book it is a Hoot there are so many giggles along the way it's educational to and I haven't finished it yet,
It has been very well researched indeed and not to filthy, but then who dosen't like a little Filth now and then
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on 30 November 2009
I am absolutely loving this book. Warning though... it is not one of those 'can't put it down' type of books. This is because you can only read a paragraph or so before you have to grab whoever is nearest to discuss the latest revelation. Some of the stuff that's been going on out there, and me all oblivious and innocent! I thought I was pretty streetwise until I started reading this. Now I feel rather silly but very pleased that I now know some things like... saying 'your mum' can get you in a whole heap of trouble.

It is clear that the author has done a heck of a lot of research but also, he has a very admirable street cred rating which also comes through in the text. This is an erudite read that is also accessible and amusing so should please a wide range of readers.

Buy it for your mum. Oops sorry! I shouldn't have said 'your mum' I do apologise.
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