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Customer Review

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blasphemy from Beowulf to the BBC, 2 April 2010
This review is from: Swearing: A Social History of Foul Language, Oaths and Profanity in English (Paperback)
Geoffrey Hughes' thoroughly absorbing historical study of swearing is, as a previous reviewer implies, substantially academic in both its conception and execution; a fact which may prove off-putting to the otherwise interested layman. Given the vast historical(and literary) canvass upon which Hughes' presents his formidable array of sources and references, some degree of scholarly presentation is both essential and inevitable. This does not imply that the book is unreadable, merely that it may require from the reader a little more concentration and attention to detail than they may possibly be used to. Starting with the heroic oaths of the Germanic languages and the old english epic poem Beowulf, Hughes proceeds through sacred blasphemy and 'flyting' in the times of Chaucer and Shakespeare and thereby on to the effects of Puritanism, particularly in the licentious reaction of the likes of Rochester during the Restoration; then onwards through what Hughes calls the "Reign of Decorum" during the Enlightenment and the Victorian era, and the "linguistic mores" of the New World settlers; finally dealing with the 20th and 21st centuries, a time during which the focus of swearing, according to the author, has completed its shift from "religious matters ... to sexual and bodily functions, and from opprobrious religious categorization ... to national and racial insults", a time which has also witnessed the controversial rise of political correctness. Hughes covers all this and much more in an erudite yet still accessible way while not foregoing a touch of humour here and there(though this may say more about my reaction than Hughes' intentions!). Nevertheless, I found this an extremely interesting, enlightening and entertaining read and if you have any interest in the origins and development of the English language I would highly recommend this book. It may require a little concentration at times but it is eminently worth the effort.
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Location: Surrey,UK

Top Reviewer Ranking: 9,379,803