Almost everyone swears, or worries about not swearing, from the two-year-old who has just discovered the power of potty mouth to the grandma who wonders why every other word she hears is obscene. Whether they express anger or exhilaration, are meant to insult or to commend, swear words perform a crucial role in language. But swearing is also a uniquely well-suited lens through which to look at history, offering a fascinating record of what people care about on the deepest levels of a culture - what's divine, what's terrifying, and what's taboo.
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 listeners 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.
Holy Sh*t also explains the advancement of civility and corresponding censorship of language in the 18th century, considers the rise of racial slurs after World War II, examines the physiological effects of swearing (increased heart rate and greater pain tolerance), and answers a question that preoccupies the FCC, the US Senate, and anyone who has recently overheard little kids at a playground: are we swearing more now than people did in the past?
A gem of lexicography and cultural history, Holy Sh*t is a serious exploration of obscenity - and it also just might expand your repertoire of words to choose from the next time you shut your finger in the car door.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.
Any additional comments?
I've always been a fan of micro-histories that explore language or aspects of culture. Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing was a fascinating trip through what many today think is a recent phenomenon. Mohr sets the record straight, however, with a discussion of Ancient Rome and their use of language which shared much with the current way we use obscene words and how we swear. She then brings us through the history of the English language (with a few other European languages thrown in for comparison) and the British and American cultures.
Mohr does a great job of illustrating how our concepts of swearing are related to those larger societal concepts such as religion, privacy, class, and shame. Her examples come from law, literature, and other documents as well as more contemporary media such as film, television and radio. (Yes, George Carlin and Rhett Butler are in here...) She also puts to bed some myths about word origins including a famous one for the F word and one for Sh*t.
An entertaining and enlightening read - especially for someone like me who enjoys using a colorful range of expletives.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Very informative and entertaining! The ideas a culture deems taboo tell you a lot about it.
The historical information was interesting. The narrator was dull and could not keep my attention.
While the narrator's voice takes just a bit of time to acclimate to, this book is great. Fantastic details, good storytelling, and very entertaining. Obviously, you won't like it if you can't stand to listen to "curse words" in an academic context.
This was a fascinating study of what historical and contemporary societies consider profane, taboo, sacred, and holy.
The narration is the biggest downside. The narrator reads so slowly that I had to listen at 1.25 speed, which creates issues with clarity when listening in the car when traffic is loud. The author is a woman, so some her autobiographical anecdotes (such as her understanding of urinal etiquette only via hearsay) was somewhat jarring.
This audiobook is full of colorful words and nasty phrases, and although it gives a good insight into the underbelly of major European civilizations in the past, it doesn't hold back with the swear words. So if you're sensitive about what you want to hear, or have any kids or easily offended people around, you might want to reconsider this.
2 of 4 people found this review helpful
What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?
THE INTRO CLEARLY STATES WE CAN DOWNLOAD THE ACCOMPANYING PDF REFERENCE GUIDE....SO WHERE IS IT AUDIBLE???
ANOTHER BAD REVIEW FOR A AUDIOBOOK THAT LIKELY DOES NOT DESERVE IT...BLAME IT ON AUDIBLE
9 of 32 people found this review helpful