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Why You Should Give A $*%! About Words That Offend

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Holy S—. A Brief History of Swearing by Melissa Mohr. Photo: courtesy of NPR

By NPR Staff

If you said the “s” word in the ninth century, you probably wouldn’t have shocked or offended anyone. Back then, the “s” word was just the everyday word that was used to refer to excrement. That’s one of many surprising, foul-mouthed facts Melissa Mohr reveals in her new book, Holy S- – -: A Brief History of Swearing.

Though the curse words themselves change over time, the category remains constant — we always have a set of words that are off-limits. “We need some category of swear words,” Mohr says. “[These] words really fulfill a function that people have found necessary for thousands of years.”

Mohr joins NPR’s David Greene to talk about curses through the ages and how the words that offend us reveal a lot about society and its values.

Click Here For Interview Highlights.

Also related:  Geoffrey Nunberg on  Ascent of the A Word” – in a 2012 interview by Robert Pollie, on KUSP’s 7th Avenue Project.

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