This book is not for everyone. The etymology of words can be a little dry. This book is about dirty words. What used to be called "profanity", meaning an insult to god. When I was young, the bad words were "god", "Jesus", "hell", and "damn". The others, like "fuck" and "shit", were out there too, and it was understood without explanation that they were also really bad. Bad words were changing. Most of the profane curses of my youth are now in common usage.
I recall with some amusement when the networks changed the rules. They would routinely bleep the phrase "god damn it" to "god bleep it", but then one day it switched and they bleeped it thus "bleep damn it". To me, this just underscored the arbitrariness of it all.
I was an atheist from a very early age, and any swearing that was profane (an insult to god) kind of baffled me. I always wondered why, since god did not seem to care. My parents used to swear in Danish, so they got a free ride.
The point is, when I was very young, it was the profane that was at issue. The central theme of the book is the evolution of swear words. The profane then yielded to the "dirty", neatly summed up by George Carlin's "Seven Deadly Words You Can Never Say on Television", namely: shit, fuck, piss, cunt, motherfucker, cocksucker and tits. Basically, words related to bodily acts or bits, from sex to elimination.
But even these words, except for one, have become so ubiquitous that they have lost their edge. Now, you can hear every one of them on late night TV or on any streamed service. Back then (in the early 70s), if you wanted to hear uncensored material, LPs were your only choice.
Today, the new bad words are those that connote hate and single out a group of people. The big ones are "faggot" and, of course, "nigger".
The book is full of interesting evolutions of phrases and words. For example, "gadzooks" comes from "god's hooks", the nails used to pin up Jesus. "Odds bodkins" comes from "god's body", "Cor blimey" is from "god blind me", and so on.
I was amused by the grammatical rules for inserting "fucking" into another word (e.g. Fan-fucking-tastic). The rule is that "fucking" must appear between two accented units (it works with "incredible", but not with "interesting") . BTW: "Fuck" does not come from "Fornication Under the Consent of the King". "Cunt" may have come from "coney" meaning "rabbit". Very similar to "pussy", no? The actual origins of "cunt" are unknown, but it was in very common use not too long ago. Today, it stands out, with "nigger" as dangerous words to use. It is the queen of curse words. This is likely due to the fact that it is female-specific, and to our culture's growing awareness that women have been given the shit-end of the stick for, well…, ever. The last thing they really need is another burden.
There has been a lot of language evolution in my life time, and it is interesting to speculate on how it will change in the future. "Nigger" is discussed at length. The author is black, so he can do that. It is interesting to note that "nigga", when used appropriately, lacks the evil connotations of the hateful word "nigger". It may well become acceptable, in the future, for blacks and whites. I suspect that language is changing faster now than ever in the past due to the enormous access we all have to varying uses and users through the internet and uncensored entertainment.
The following are my thoughts: The euphemism "N-word" is one of the dumbest things I can recall. You hear "N-word", but you think "nigger". How has this helped? People have been fired for using the word just once, and in appropriate context. For example, in many US states, a teacher cannot say "One hundred and fifty years ago, in the Southern United States, the word 'nigger' was in common use." without risking termination. That is stupid. I do not have a problem with the current off-limits nature of the word, especially for whites. But it is just a word.
All of your favorites are discussed at some length. A few I have not mentioned are "ass", "dyke", "pussy", and "bitch". "Tits" did not make the list. I miss George.
The book lacks an index. This is annoying. With computers, you can index a book in a day. Two if you want a reasonably good one.
Lee Moller is a life-long skeptic and atheist and the author of The God Con.