Forbidden Words: Taboo and the Censoring of Language

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Cambridge University Press, Oct 5, 2006 - Language Arts & Disciplines
Many words and expressions are viewed as 'taboo', such as those used to describe sex, our bodies and their functions, and those used to insult other people. This 2006 book provides a fascinating insight into taboo language and its role in everyday life. It looks at the ways we use language to be polite or impolite, politically correct or offensive, depending on whether we are 'sweet-talking', 'straight-talking' or being deliberately rude. Using a range of colourful examples, it shows how we use language playfully and figuratively in order to swear, to insult, and also to be politically correct, and what our motivations are for doing so. It goes on to examine the differences between institutionalized censorship and the ways individuals censor their own language. Lively and revealing, Forbidden Words will fascinate anyone who is interested in how and why we use and avoid taboos in daily conversation.

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User Review  - heina - LibraryThing

This book manages to make the technicalities of language both interesting and accessible to those not trained in linguistics (like me). I quote it in daily conversation not infrequently. Read full review


1 Taboos and their origins
2 Sweet talking and offensive language
3 Bad language? Jargon slang swearing and insult
4 The language of political correctness
Figure 41 Darkie Toothpaste becomes Darlie Toothpaste
5 Linguistic purism and verbal hygiene
6 Taboo naming and addressing
7 Sex and bodily effluvia
8 Food and smell
9 Disease death and killing
Figure 91 Squatters dispersing Australian Aborigines late nineteenth
10 Taboo censoring and the human brain

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About the author (2006)

Keith Allan is Reader in Linguistics and Convenor of the Linguistics Program at Monash University.

Kate Burridge is Chair of Linguistics at Monash University.

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