Book review: ‘In Praise of Profanity’ by Michael Adams

Swearing has long been disreputable and in many ways still is. But it has never gone away, and (at the risk of confirmation bias) it seems more visible than ever. We see and hear it not just among friends, family and neighbours but at work, on the news, and in cultural media from billboard ads to high literature – albeit often euphemised. Are we living in a capital-A, fuckin’-A Age of Profanity?

Michael Adams, in his new book In Praise of Profanity (OUP, 2016) makes a persuasive case that we are. Though not a book about the history or science of profanity, it draws on both in aiming more immediately to examine and celebrate the swearing performance itself – the feeling, the experience, the phenomenon of profanity.

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Clusterboinks and clusterfornications: The children of clusterfuck

I love the word clusterfuck. It’s a perfect word for, as Jesse Sheidlower defines it in The F-Word, “a bungled or confused undertaking or situation.” That sums up approximately 91.3% of life.

Much as I dig the original, I’m also a fan of variations. Here are some rare cluster-alternatives I’ve spotted over the years: the children of clusterfuck. Like a lot of children, most are less offensive than the parental unit. But they’re all signs of verbal creativity—and the omnipresence of clusterfuckery.

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