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

Review From User :

DISCLAIMER: This review contains profanities and offensive words. This is purely a part of a professional way of analysing language and by no means meant to offend anyone! Thank you for understanding! :)

What the F by Benjamin Bergen is an excellent read for anyone interested in gaining a deeper understanding of language and its relation to humans.

Words have power. We know that because WE are the ones giving them power. And I don't just mean power as in saying "stand up!", making people do just that.

If I say "faggot" or "nigger", most of us will feel discomfort. As Bergen points it out, we could face psychical reactions such as increased pulse, sweaty palms or even changes to breathing. We understand that these words are one of the most powerful derogatory terms out there and therefore we do not use them. This (self-)censorship alone makes them even more unacceptable when used.

If I say "bitch", the reaction is probably less intense than the examples above get. We use this word more freely, it can be seen in movies/books and I often refer to my best friend as such in a humorous way. This, of course, is personal and I would refrain calling a stranger bitch. For others, they wouldn't use it all. It also depends on the tone and the setting these words are used in. If I say "you bitch!" to someone I know while I'm laughing, then it doesn't register as something offensive. However, if I say "you bitch!", practically spitting the words after someone bumped into me, then everyone knows they were meant with a malicious intent.

There are SO MANY, things that affect the way we view certain words, from society to geographical location, religion or age, tone or the century we're in, different factors contribute differently to the power and acceptance of words.

And that is f****** awesome.


Language is a very fascinating thing and if you enjoyed what you've just read, I would recommend you read Bergen's book as it is filled with this sh#t! :p

Thank you NetGalley for the ARC!


Category: Science, Language, Psychology

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.
Expand text… 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.

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