A Cursory History of Swearing
by Julian Sharman
Published in 1884
Thibault’s Score: 2/5
I decided to read this book as part of my recent interest in the pursuit of linguistics.
The first chapter was unpleasant to read, however the book gets better after chapter 2.
The writing style of this book is metaphorical, dense, and unclear. I found the language to be dated and sometimes difficult to read. Instead of simple sentences that convey meaning, the author waxes poetic, and writes long incomprehensible flourishes.
I found the book to be unscientific and rife with all of the prejudices of the Victorian age. The author makes broad assertions without evidence such as “the more swearing that there is in a society, the less truth there is.”
That being said, there were some tidbits of gold. For example, the author, in the second chapter, observes that in many languages oaths eventually turned into swear words. Interestingly enough, the word “swear” can both mean “to say things which are rude” and “to pledge.”
I also learned a lot of etymological factoids. The French word “sacre bleu” came from the old expression “sacre dieu" which means “bless God.”
Overall, I didn’t really like the book, and only finished the first 5 chapters, because it was too unscientific. However, I may be biased against the book because I was listening to a poorly produced Librivox audiobook.
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