- God, I fucking love profanity! Profanity: shit, yes! It sometimes seems to these jaded ears that oaths and cusses are all we have left, the only solace in this vale of fucking tears. Joan Acocella, reviewing two new books about swearing, writes, “The very sound of obscenities—forget their sense—seems to ring a bell in us, as is clear from the fact that many of them sound alike … Consonants sound sharper, more absolute, than vowels. (Compare piss with pee, cunt with pussy.) It may be this tough-talk quality that accounts for certain widely recognized benefits of swearwords. For example, they help us endure pain. In one widely cited experiment, subjects were instructed to plunge a hand into ice-cold water and keep it there as long as they could. Half were told that they could utter a swearword while doing this, if they wanted to; the other half were told to say some harmless word, such as wood. The swearing subjects were able to keep their hands in the water significantly longer than the pure-mouthed group.”
- Harold Pinter, who knew from obscenity, offered the London Review of Books a fairly salty bit of verse back in 1991, as the U.S. waged the first Gulf War. Inigo Thomas writes, “After the US A-10 tank-buster bombers known as Warthogs had finished off the Iraqi armored brigades on the Basra Road, Harold Pinter, disgusted by the gratuitous carnage, wrote a poem called ‘American Football.’ ” What struck the editors then as a mere novelty is now penetrating, even pungent. Here are the first few lines:
We blew the shit out of them.
We blew the shit right back up their own ass
And out their fucking ears.