A sharp, well-studied dissection of the role of swearing in culture, why people curse, and why it’s good for us.


An academic’s defense of curse words, cusses, swears, and other expletives.

As Adams (English Language and Literature/Indiana Univ.; From Elvish to Klingon: Exploring Invented Languages, 2011, etc.) points out in his critically thorough, engaging analysis, we are living in “The Age of Profanity,” in which social restrictions on vulgarity have eased substantially enough for freer use of curse words, without sacrificing their power or meaning. (The 2009 decision of Federal Communications Commission vs. Fox Television Stations, Inc. helped assert this cultural shift by establishing an emotive standard for exclamatory expletives.) Not only does the author think this is a good thing, but he hopes this charmed age of swearing lasts a long time. One of the social advantages of cursing, writes Adams, is that it fosters a sense of intimacy and solidarity among speakers. As casual inflections to speech, cursing enables speakers to achieve a common ground and understanding. More than coarse or colorful language, proper cursing also has an element of artfulness. As Adams shows, the art of cursing—and cursing in art—reveals cultural undercurrents and personal intricacies that are not as easily expressed through conventional language. But what words qualify as curses, and why? That’s a more complicated question that requires Adams to unpack the meanings of concepts such as obscenity, indecency, and offensiveness. (“Shit” and “fuck” are the two expletives that Adams examines most often.) Citing examples from popular culture, such as the Showtime series Californication and HBO’s The Sopranos, the author makes a strong case for the usefulness, underlying philosophy, and expressive pleasure of cursing.

A sharp, well-studied dissection of the role of swearing in culture, why people curse, and why it’s good for us.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-19-933758-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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