A Cursory History of Swearing

4:30 pm, Saturday, May 22, 2010

Location: meet up in tearoom, move to Ryerson

Lecture by Michaela Jandacek


– Overview of some of the crazier academic theories about swearing.
– Setting a precedent: some pre-English cursing. Dirty Latin words and the like.
– Old English: the origins of our swearing in formal oaths and curses, and the taboos surrounding them.
– Swearing in Middle English: the rise of (weird) sexual curses, the evolution of word meanings, and (even more) religious taboos. Also, borrowing words from the French.
– Religious revivals, religious oaths… and Shakespeare. (Sblood! Zounds!)
– Flyting.
– Victorian avoidance, euphemism, and – by Jupiter! – hypocrisy.
– The divergence of British, Australian, and American cursing customs. Bloody hell!
– The gradual rise to mainstream acceptance of cursing during the 20th century — but wait, you can’t say that on television!
– Today’s mixed messages regarding swearing: paranoia, censorship, boundaries, and widespread usage
– Just for fun:
— timeline of first recorded usage of certain words
— the weirdest minced oaths and euphemisms to come out of the 19th century
— The Scunthorpe Problem
— the etymology, family tree, and evolution of the word “fuck,” and its use as (nearly) every part of speech.

Language warning on the talk and video thereof.


One Response to “A Cursory History of Swearing”

  1. Tea Matcha - How to whisk matcha green tea without a "chasen"? Says:

    […] A Cursory History of Swearing « Tea Room Lecture Series […]

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