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Fuck: Word Taboo and Protecting our First Amendment Liberties [Paperback]

by Christopher Fairman
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 1, 2009 1572487119 978-1572487116
@$#*%! Our most taboo word and how the law keeps it forbidden.

This entertaining read is about the word "fuck", the law, and the taboo. Whether you shout it out in the street or whisper it in the bedroom, deliberately plan a protest, or spontaneously blurt it out, if you say "fuck," someone wants to silence you, either with a dirty look across the room or by making a rule that you cannot say the word. When it's the government trying to cleanse your language, though, you should worry. Words are ideas. If the government controls the words we use, it can control what we think. To protect this liberty, we must first understand why the law's treatment of "fuck" puts that freedom at risk.

This book examines the law surrounding the word and reveals both inconsistencies in its treatment and tension with other identifiable legal rights that the law simply doesn't answer. The power of taboo provides the framework to understand these uncertainties. It also explains why attempts to curtail the use of "fuck" through law are doomed to fail. Fundamentally, it persists because it is taboo; not in spite of it.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a spirited expansion on his law review article, "Fuck," Ohio State Univ. law professor Fairman explores the origin and the affect of perhaps the most notorious word in the English language. Fairman begins with a catalog and limited history of the word, including usages sexual and non-sexual. In tracking down the word's origins-largely unknown-and the abundance of court cases involving it, Fairman highlights the long struggle of conservative forces to expel that word, and other forms of speech, from American society, in direct opposition to the first amendment. Fairman also addresses the downfalls inherent to the amendment, including the exception for speech used to incite violence, and the myriad of punishments used, at state and national levels, to deal with those exceptions. Drawing from a vast selection of historical documentation, Fairman also explores the nature of taboo and related trivia, such as the word's usage across gender lines. Austere and informative, Fairman's social history is uncompromising in its vigilant defense of first amendment rights, both in spite of his subject's potential for offense, and because of it.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Christopher M. Fairman is a Professor of Law at Moritz College of Law at the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. He is a leading national expert in civil procedure, legal ethics, and the word "fuck." He is a gifted teacher with awards and recognition at the high school, college, and university level.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Sphinx Publishing (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1572487119
  • ISBN-13: 978-1572487116
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #460,082 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you seek Amy.... September 21, 2009
FIRST A NOTE ON STYLE: Contrary to the statements of author Christopher Fairman, it is not the position of this writer that any reviewer treating his book or the law review article from which it stems is required to actually use the title of his work instead of some euphemism such as the f word or [...] in writing about this material. In a free society truly vibrant discourse is promoted when the participants are permitted to express their reactions as they see fit free of either any mandatory editorial exclusions or in this case inclusions.

THAT BEING SAID...Fairman has produced one of the greatest pieces of legal analysis it has ever been my pleasure to read.

As a practicing lawyer for over twenty years it has rarely been my privilege to see such a masterful melding of psyhology, history and of course legal authority in laying out the law's position on a topic such as here where Professor Fairman discusses the permissible uses of the f word.

As pointed out by Fairman the f word enjoys a particularly taboo status in American language owing to its allusion to an activity so antithetical to the Puritan ethic of chastity which seems to play such a pivotal role in ostensible American morality. Significantly a tracking of especially prohibited curse words from other cultures shows that the f word does not assume the same forbidden status owing to the fact that the word isn't so threatening to their own cultural pretensions.

Indeed the word is so forbidden here studies have shown that it excites primal emotional responses similar only to discovering a snake or suddenly observing someone vomit. It is perhaps for these reasons many react viscerally rather than with the intellectual distance one might typically associate with the use of the spoken word.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent. February 11, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An important book on free speech. Odd that I was not able to include
in review the word prominently appearing in the title. Rather makes
the case that this word is controversial, misunderstood, and should
not be restricted as per First Amendment Rights.

Book arrived quickly in excellent condition
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5.0 out of 5 stars Our greatest dirty word! December 25, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I use this book for a class I teach about "dirty words," (actually it's about freedom of speech) and I can't say enough about Fairman's determination in publishing it and his diligence in researching it. A fine, fun read.
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0 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars (A)dultery (I)s (M)urder!!! [abso...]Doubt-ful? September 2, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Aside from the "amusing" anecdotes and countless references to similarly fatigable 'methods of refrain' this work seems entirely wanton for a lawyer's perspective and so I must wonder into what version of nepotism and disapprobation might this author be invested?!
But of course I was expecting a course reference with emphasis on deconstructing the "Sex as Syn" indoctrination from the archaic to the modern religiose. Or at least a statistical analysis of Municipal Court Discriminations RE Adultery; Both Legal and Illicit! Instead what is offered is a loosely constructed deduction of a word's potential and incidence, not its fact and fiction.
Could it be that Fairman's incapability even at pinpointing the words origin(s) [Whatever its origins...p.40] mean this work was likely an unwanted assignment, resulting in a token of nominalism.

[Furthermore;] Due its publication source & date, I can't help but label it and it's twin CI ("The F-Word"-Sheidlower) as unmitigated reification [opposed to relativism and logical positivism]!

**I finished reviewing Sheidlower's work a few months ago and it was equally dissatisfying: A lot of witheld (or perhaps simply missing) relevant reference information. For instance both "Another Country" James Baldwin (1962) and "The Man Who Had Power Over Women" Gordon M. Williams (1967) make "less sophistical" use of the word (though both are so ecclectic to the point of representing a self-denigrating calumny that it is hard to imagine them NOT included with all the rest of ...a history of chauvinism) but the first uses such an intelligent(fiery) device it's hard to imagine not being drawn in at least throughout the first 87p chapter. And the second is quite the watery droll in comparison, but full of literary subterfuge. Though I doubt I'd ever read either of them completely!!**(5/23/12)
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