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Melissa Mohr's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Melissa Mohr recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Melissa Mohr's favorite book recommendations of all time.

It’s “the nuclear bomb of racial epithets,” a word that whites have employed to wound and degrade African Americans for three centuries. Paradoxically, among many black people it has become a term of affection and even empowerment. The word, of course, is nigger, and in this candid, lucidly argued book the distinguished legal scholar Randall Kennedy traces its origins, maps its multifarious connotations, and explores the controversies that rage around it.

Should blacks be able to use nigger in ways forbidden to others? Should the law treat it as a provocation that...
Recommended by Melissa Mohr, and 1 others.

Melissa MohrThis is a great examination of the n-word. It’s a little bit of a history and a lot of legal examination of how people have used this word and under which cases is it okay, under which cases is it illegal, and under which it is immoral. It looks at the valences of the word—how it can be negative, how it can be positive, and how that changes. (Source)

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The F-Word

We all know what frak, popularized by television's cult hit Battlestar Galactica, really means. But what about feck? Or ferkin? Or foul--as in FUBAR, or "Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition"?

In a thoroughly updated edition of The F-Word, Jesse Sheidlower offers a rich, revealing look at the f-bomb and its illimitable uses. Since the fifteenth century, no other word has been adapted, interpreted, euphemized, censored, and shouted with as much ardor or force; imagine Dick Cheney telling Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy to...
Recommended by Melissa Mohr, Jonathon Green, and 2 others.

Melissa MohrThis is a great one for showcasing the variety of swearing and all the circumstances you can use this one word. It starts with absofuckinglutely and ends with zipless fuck, and in the middle has dumbfuck, frig, unfuckable—so many great words. He’s done this excellent research, so you can see the dates when they were all first used, with quotes. (Source)

Jonathon GreenEverybody should look at this and see how lexicography should be done, because it is a superb piece of work. It’s not a grubby book, or a meretricious book, it’s an amazing piece of scholarship. (Source)

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"A sneaky--charming, consistently engrossing--introduction to linguistics." --New York Times Book Review
Everyone swears. Only the rare individual can avoid ever letting slip an expletive. And yet, we ban the words from television and insist that polite people excise them from their vocabularies. That's a fucking shame. Not only is swearing colorful, fun, and often powerfully apt, as linguist and cognitive scientist Benjamin K. Bergen shows us, the study of it can provide a new window onto how our brains process language. How can patients left otherwise...
Recommended by Melissa Mohr, and 1 others.

Melissa MohrIt’s a really good general summary about how swearing works. It’s not so much interested in the history, although it does cover it a bit, but it’s got a big discussion of swearing and the brain. It talks about how swearing is this funny combination of left-brain and right-brain speech. (Source)

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Tracing the history of swearing from ancient Anglo-Saxon traditions and those of the Middle Ages, through Shakespeare, the Enlightenment and the Victorians, to the Lady Chatterley trial and various current trends, Geoffrey Hughes explores a fascinating, little discussed yet irrespressible part of our linguistic heritage. This second edition contains a Postscript updating various contemporary developments, such as the growth of Political Correctness. less
Recommended by Melissa Mohr, and 1 others.

Melissa MohrHe talks about the way swearing has changed over the years and has a lot of great examples and funny stories. For me, the most interesting parts are his exhaustive word lists—he’s got 50 or so euphemisms for God, for example, from ‘gog’ to ‘cokk’ to ‘Great Scott!' (Source)

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In The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, Steven Pinker looks at how the relationship between words and thoughts can help us understand who we are.

Why do so many swear words involve topics like sex, bodily functions or the divine? Why do some children's names thrive while others fall out of favour? Why do we threaten and bribe and seduce in such elaborate, often comical ways? How can a choice of metaphor damn a politician or start a war? And why do we rarely say what we actually mean?

Language, as Steven Pinker shows, is at the heart...

Dominic Steil[One of the books that had the biggest impact on .] (Source)

Melissa MohrThis is about language more generally, but it has a great chapter on swearing. It’s a really good shorter summary, where he hits all the highlights about swearing and physiology in terms of how it works in the brain and the effects it has on your body. (Source)

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