Swearing in the time of coronavirus

We’re staying inside, we’re social-distancing (or, more accurately, physical-distancing), we’re washing our hands over and over, we’re inventing new corona-words, we’re choosing new email signoffs (adieu to “Cheers!”; bonjour to “Be well”).

And here in the virtual Strong Language enclave, we’re thinking about illness-inspired swearing.

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“More man? Plague, plague!”: How to curse like a misanthrope

Shakespeare’s The Life of Timon of Athens is an overlooked gem in his corpus. Though less accomplished than many of his other tragedies, this moral drama is distinctive – and timely – in its focus on the relationship between money and affection. It satirizes some amusing characters, including a churlish cynic philosopher and two artists who only ply their craft to win rewards. The play also features some choice language.

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Sweary links #14

October already? You know what that means: It’s decorative gourd season, motherfuckers.

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Mug via McSweeney’s Store.

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A retired lecturer in medieval history has found what appears to be the earliest use of fuck. It’s in a 1310 court record, and it’s a surname: Roger Fuckebythenavele. “Experts say name refers to lack of sexual prowess, or gross stupidity.” – Daily Mail. “I’m sort of speechless.” –  Language Log’s Geoffrey Pullum. “The Middle English dictionary needs a fucking update.” – medievalist Piotr Gąsiorowski.

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“The search for the first ‘fuck’ may be both fascinating and futile — even when we find it, we might not have the context to know what it means.”

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