04 November 2008

Forbidden Words

Forbidden Words
Forbidden Words: Taboo & The Censoring Of Language, by Keith Allan and Kate Burridge, is an analysis of social and cultural linguistic suppression.

The authors take an inclusive approach, finding space not only for swear words and profanities but also for political correctness, proscriptive usage, and jargon. Each chapter begins with an abstract, though an introduction outlining the various areas of enquiry might be a useful addition, given the wide scope of the book.

The first chapter explores the origins of social taboos and literary censorship, material which will be familiar to many readers. More interesting is the next chapter, which discusses euphemistic language; here, the authors coin a new term, 'orthophemism', to describe literal vocabulary which is neither euphemistic nor dysphemistic.

The bulk of the book is a series of thematic chapters describing linguistic taboos against sex, bodily fluids, food, disease, and death. (My website is cited as a reference in one chapter.)