What the F by Benjamin K. Bergen
What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves

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Synopsis

Nearly everyone swears—whether it’s over a few too many drinks, in reaction to a stubbed toe, or in flagrante delicto. And yet, we sit idly by as words are banned from television and censored in books. We insist that people excise profanity from their vocabularies and we punish children for yelling the very same dirty words that we’ll mutter in relief seconds after they fall asleep. Swearing, it seems, is an intimate part of us that we have decided to selectively deny.

That’s a damn shame. Swearing is useful. It can be funny, cathartic, or emotionally arousing. As linguist and cognitive scientist Benjamin K. Bergen shows us, it also opens a new window onto how our brains process language and why languages vary around the world and over time.

In this groundbreaking yet ebullient romp through the linguistic muck, Bergen answers intriguing questions: How can patients left otherwise speechless after a stroke still shout Goddamn! when they get upset? When did a cock grow to be more than merely a rooster? Why is crap vulgar when poo is just childish? Do slurs make you treat people differently? Why is the first word that Samoan children say not mommy but eat shit? And why do we extend a middle finger to flip someone the bird?

Smart as hell and funny as fuck, What the F is mandatory reading for anyone who wants to know how and why we swear.
 

About Benjamin K. Bergen

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Benjamin Bergen is an Associate Professor in the Cognitive Science Department at the University of California, San Diego, where he directs the Language and Cognition Lab. Bergen is an active researcher in cognitive linguistics and cognitive science, with over 40 publications and 60 presentations in the two fields. He is regularly invited to lecture in the U.S. and abroad. His work has been featured in The Atlantic, New Scientist, and Science News.
 
Published September 13, 2016 by Basic Books. 288 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, Education & Reference, Professional & Technical, Science & Math. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for What the F

What's in a word? A lot, of course, particularly in the case of profanity. In this erudite and entertaining work, Bergen (cognitive science, Univ. of California, San Diego) offers a thorough examination of what swearing reveals about language, the brain, and society. Swear words are taboo; what m...

Jun 15 2016 | Read Full Review of What the F: What Swearing Rev...
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