I rarely post here twice in one day, but I have some news to share: Strong Language is a new group blog about swearing set up by sesquiotic linguist James Harbeck and me. This is how it started.
As James puts it, the blog:
gives a place for professional language geeks to talk about things they can’t talk about in more polite contexts. It’s a sweary blog about swearing.
At the bottom of the new blog you’ll see some familiar names among the contributors. More will be signing up, and we’re very open to ideas for new material. The associated Twitter account is @stronglang.
Some of you may find the idea unappealing, and will not wish to read further. I won’t hold it against you.
It’s early days, and we’re still figuring out the details, but there are several posts up already on a range of topics, including the phonology of cusswords, whether shit is a contronym, and one from me today on great moments of swearing in the horror film The Thing.
If swearing gives you lalochezia or interests you linguistically, culturally or ineffably, then bookmark, subscribe and follow at will, and spread the word if the notion takes you.
My first Strong Language post is featured on the Paris Review blog:
Great moments in swearing: an utterance in John Carpenter’s The Thing helped define our sense of a treasured obscenity.
Ben Zimmer introduces Strong Language to Language Log readers:
There’s a new linguablog that’s definitely worth your time if you’re not put off by vulgarities. And if you revel in vulgarities, well, you’re in luck. . . . James and Stan have enlisted a great lineup of contributors (I’m happy to be one of them).
Eugene Volokh gives Strong Language his nod of approval at the Washington Post.
Strong Language just got picked up by MetaFilter.
Language Hat is also happy about it.
Dave Wilton spreads the word at Wordorigins.org.
Katy Waldman at Slate‘s Lexicon Valley blog welcomes the “cheerful temple to the vulgar and profane” that is Strong Language.
Jazmine Hughes at The Hairpin praises Strong Language‘s “scholarly, robust, cool-as-shit deep dive into when and why we swear, where our curses come from, and what, exactly, they mean”.
Laura M. Browning selects Strong Language as a staff pick for the A.V. Club:
Although the blog’s authors are serious about language, they don’t take themselves too seriously, so the posts are as hilarious as they are informative. Plus you’ll pick up some language that would make Malcolm Tucker proud.
And here’s a progress report from March 2015: Strong Language 2: Swear harder.
Good idea, I’m sure it is not uncommon for writers in all genres (myself included) to internally debate about what effect the inclusion of profanity in their work will do to their reputations. Sign me up!
Thanks, Jim. I think it comes down to context and authenticity. Using swear words gratuitously is no better in prose than in speech, but it’s appropriate to include them when writing (for an adult audience) about characters who ordinarily would swear, and swear in particular ways.
I don’t swear out loud (much), but I do internally or sotto voce.
One day in Korea, the textbook had a lesson on idioms based on numbers eg seventh heaven, cloud nine. One of the questions was ‘Do you ever use four-letter words?’. The first time I used that textbook, I tried to explain what ‘four-letter words’ were, without actually using any of them, and the students didn’t have a clue what on earth I was talking about. After the lesson I was speaking to an American colleague, and I asked ‘How do you explain “four-letter words” without using any of them?’ and he replied ‘You don’t’ – then proceeded to reel off about 10 of them in a row without pausing for breath. That evening I mentioned this to my advanced class, and one impeccable 30-something-ish woman said ‘Oh you mean words like ‘fuck’!’. I thought ‘Now that you’ve mentioned it – yes!’.
The next time I used that textbook, I wrote ‘f*ck’ and ‘sh*t’ on the board and said ‘You’ve heard enough American movies and tv shows – you know what these words are’.
I think I swear out loud more than internally, but then I’m not surrounded by colleagues at work so I don’t have to watch my tongue all day. That’s a good anecdote from your teaching experience. I can see how four-letter words would be just baffling in that situation. It’s a pretty obscure euphemism.
Swear words are completely necessary for me while driving in the suburbs. I’d have to get out and walk otherwise. Looking forward to learning a great deal from _Strong Language_!
I would like to let loose with a string of four-letter words: life, love, hope, pray, help, wish, good food, fine wine, wife, mate, sing a song, play a tune, talk, chat, joke, swim, hike, long walk, cool rain, dusk, moon, dawn, Stan.
Claire: Driving can be fierce frustrating! I seldom curse when cycling or using any other form of transport, but in the car it’s quite a regular occurrence. We now have 10 posts up on Strong Language, with lots more due in the weeks to come.
David: I’m trying to imagine my name as an expletive, and the closest I can get is a Khan!-type exclamation. That will do.
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It’s about time someone addressed the @#$%&?>) issue!
Too #%*?+&-ing right, Marc.
As a feminist, I’m a firm believer in strong language. Especially swear words. It is a way of reclaiming space and power. I was inordinately proud when I overheard my granddaughter say to her friend when they were about 12, “I bet my grandma has more swear words than your grandma.”
Yay for that blog. I’ll had to my collection.
Well damn you autocorrect. *”It’ll add new ones”
WWW: That’s a great thing to overhear! You must have been so pleased. It’s interesting to consider the power of swear words, what generates it, and how it’s unevenly distributed.
Thanks for sharing this.
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