The aim of this book is to teach what is still commonly known as ‘bad language’. Depending on the degree to which it is tolerated, it is also described as strong, foul, picturesque, earthy, rough, salty, colourful, naughty, profane, adult, taboo, vulgar, dirty, filthy, low, obscene, and much else besides. Whatever the adjective, the language in question consists of a relatively small group of words and expressions that are never taught in school, not even in language schools to adult students of English. In that sense, it constitutes a kind of forbidden language or counter-language within the main body of English. Why this language is not taught in the usual way is simple to explain: it embarrasses, upsets, insults or otherwise offends a great many people. Of course, every native speaker of English who is more than five years old knows the main swearwords of the language. But most people, most of the time, still prefer not to use them. For this reason alone, second-language learners of English are probably well advised not to use them either, or at least not until they have become sensitive to the effects they are likely to produce.
If that is so, why study a book like this at all? In a word: to understand. In the past thirty years, language and cultural values have changed considerably. It is little short of astonishing, given the liberality of language in present-day films, that the first recorded use of the word ‘fuck’ in a major commercial movie occurred only in 1970, in Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H. Since then, especially in the last decade, Hollywood has discovered that bad language is good box office. On television, too, in Britain and also in the United States outside the expletive-free national networks, swearing is now commonplace and uncontroversial. The same is true of the printed word. Not only in books but in national newspapers and magazines, words now frequently appear which only a generation or two ago would have earned their authors a mouthful of soap. Everywhere, the electronic bleeps and the blanks and asterisks which formerly protected the innocent have been put on the shelf. Some speculate that within ten or fifteen years, the dreaded f-word itself will be wholly acceptable, even for children.
1: PARTS OF THE BODY
2: BODY FUNCTIONS
3: SEXUAL DESIRE
4: SEXUAL ACTIVITY
5: SEXUAL TASTES
6: UNPLEASANT PEOPLE, THINGS, PLACES, ETC.
7: INCOMPETENCE, INFERIOR QUALITY
9: RACIAL INSULTS
10: IDIOMATIC USAGES
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