My Word In praise of cursing.

My Word In praise of cursing.

Issue 40

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Arts & Culture

  • Words Robert Ito
  • Photograph Charlotte Lapalus

Falstaff was a master of the imaginative curse. In Henry IV, Part I, the wayward knight calls Prince Hal and others starvelings, whoreson caterpillars, bacon-fed knaves, and bull’s pizzles. 

To many, Falstaff is just the sort of individual one might expect to curse so often and well: crude and hot-tempered, an inveterate drunkard and all-around scoundrel. But what if swearing weren’t the mark of an impoverished character or intellect, but rather the sign of a great communicator? According to Melissa Mohr, author of Holy Shit: A Brief History of Swearing, letting loose with the occasional expletive is an excellent way of communicating meaning. When you swear at someone, really swear at them, that person knows you’re deadly serious. When you unleash a string of four-letter words af...

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