Holy Shit: A Brief History of Swearing

Ich liege grade so ein bisschen krank im Bett – Grippe und gleichzeitig Zug an den Nieren (Aua!) –, da musste ich mir natürlich ein neues Buch auf mein Kindle laden, weil ich ja nichts zum Lesen habe. Wie auch immer: Melissa Mohrs Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing klingt auch ohne Grippe nach einem Must Read:

Holy Sh*t tells the story of two kinds of swearing–obscenities and oaths–from ancient Rome and the Bible to today. With humor and insight, Melissa Mohr takes readers on a journey to discover how “swearing” has come to include both testifying with your hand on the Bible and calling someone a *#$&!* when they cut you off on the highway. She explores obscenities in ancient Rome–which were remarkably similar to our own–and unearths the history of religious oaths in the Middle Ages, when swearing (or not swearing) an oath was often a matter of life and death.

Salon hat einen längeren Auszug daraus, hier die Geschichte des ersten dokumentierten Fucks:

Let’s take fuck, for example. Around 1790, a Virginia judge named George Tucker wrote a poem in which a father argues with his son the scholar, “‘G—d— your books!’ the testy father said, / ‘I’d not give ——— for all you’ve read.’” According to Jesse Sheidlower and Geoffrey Hughes, the third ——— is replacing “a fuck,” producing the first recorded example of the modern teenage mantra, “I don’t give a fuck.” This poem didn’t see the light of day until a scholarly edition of Tucker’s work in 1977. Tucker’s great-granddaughter published some of his poems in 1895, but she somehow didn’t see her way to including this one. By 1879, the evidence is less equivocal. A character in the mock Christmas pantomime “Harlequin Prince Cherrytop and the Good Fairy Fairfuck” (1879) declares, “For all your threats I don’t care a fuck. / I’ll never leave my princely darling duck.” (The panto relates the story of Prince Cherrytop, who has become enslaved by the Demon of Masturbation. The Good Fairy Fairfuck helps him conquer his addiction to self-abuse, so he can embrace the joys of holy matrimony with his betrothed, the Princess Shovituppa. It was written by an eminent journalist for the Daily Telegraph, whose work had also been published by Dickens and Thackeray.)

In 1866, a man swore in an affidavit that one Mr. Baker had told him he “would be fucked out of his money by Mr. Brown.” The notary who recorded the testimony editorializes, “Before putting down the word as used by the witness, I requested him to reflect upon the language he attributed to Mr. Baker, and not to impute to him an outrage upon all that was decent.” Luckily for us, the witness insisted he copy it down, outrage or no, and so we have the first recorded use of fuck meaning “cheat, victimize, betray.”

The modern history of swearing: Where all the dirtiest words come from

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