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Expletive Deleted: 05/16/12

cover art

Expletive Deleted by Ruth Wajnryb does for swearing what Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss does for punctuation. The book examines the fine art of swearing, how it used, it's history and the different kinds of swearing.

While I normally keep the swear words to a bare minimum on this blog, I don't in this post. If you don't like swearing you won't like this review or the book. Please take time instead to peruse my archive instead.

I learned my go-to swear words from my grandmother (damn, shit and fuck, in that order). I learned a few other choice ones (in German) from my grandfather. I learned even more in Spanish from growing up in California. Then in French class I learned a few more. Toss in a trip to Australia and lots of British TV on cable and I expanded my repertoire.

My oldest has learned grandmother's go-to words from me and when to use them (mostly in times of emergency or great bodily harm). We aren't day to day swearers; we save them for special emphasis.

Expletive Deleted looks at the different ways of swearing and the history of swearing including some etymological looks at the most common swear words. There's extensive time spent on fuck, shit and cunt.

The cunt chapter was presented as being the most shocking chapter but I found the fuck one far more jarring to read. Believe it or not, I have never heard cunt used as an expletive in California. I don't know if that's because it's such a taboo to have been removed from the local lexicon or if we just have enough other ways of swearing. So this chapter brought to light that swearing isn't as universal as one might think, even within the bounds of the same mother tongue.

Four stars

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Comment #1: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 at 22:26:24

Stephanie Campisi

What a fascinating book. Swearing is definitely influenced by geography and class — "cunt" is widely used (largely by lower class people of British descent) in Australia, and certainly in Britain, although it's generally very offensive in most circles. It can be used as a jokey term of endearment (!) in some groups, though.

"Bugger" is another one that we use widely that doesn't seem to be in use in the US. There are plenty of more mild words that seem to be in use in the US that aren't in use over here, though (douche for one).

Comment #2: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 at 13:37:22


I spent four months in Australia � 3 1/2 of them living with a former British family who had emigrated to Tasmania in the 1950s and the other 2 hiking along the Hawkesbury River. As I was a teen at the time, I think the adults were watching what they said around me just as I was on my best behavior. I did not hear cunt from anyone. I did however hear bugger, bloody and shell grit. Douche bag isn't in my personal lexicon and it seems to be an East Coast word of choice more so than a West Coast one. Where douche bag would be used, I usually opt for ass hat.

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