on June 19, 2011
Very interesting book about history of censorship and its application. Beginning of the book is easy and entertaining to read. However, pretty soon it gets convoluted, scientific and confusing. If you're not serious about this subject, this is not for you. It's hardly a lighthearted beach reading.
on June 21, 2009
Why is it taboo to talk about menstruation, yet a little more acceptable to refer to "Aunt Flo?" How does something go from being offensive to politically correct (such as race or sexual orientation)? Why are some words offensive by merit of association (i.e. niggardly)?
There are words you shouldn't say in front of children, in mixed company, or to your mother. There are topics best to be avoided. There are terms that get bleeped, politely ignored, and words we tie ourselves into knots to find euphemisms for. These are our forbidden words. They are forbidden because they describe our taboos in frank and blunt ways. We find roundabout ways to describe sex, excrement, eating, menstruation, and death for a reason. The authors of this book explore that reason. They delve into what makes a topic taboo, then into what makes a word taboo.
In general, the authors do not consider censorship--political reasons for considering certain words or topics off-limits or an organized, mandated way of making them so. They are mainly interested in the limits we put on ourselves, on our understanding of social mores that keeps us from spouting off like George Carlin at a business meeting.
While this is a slow and scholarly read, it is unbelievably useful to anyone interested in language and the anthropology of language. Highly recommended.