Andrew Billen

The Reason Why Counts Became Earls

Swearing: A Social History of Foul Language, Oaths and Profanity in English

By

Blackwell 280pp £16.95 order from our bookshop

I have a female friend whose scrupulous upbringing prevents her from telling her favourite joke. It is the one about the tramp who knocks at the window of a Rolls Royce to ask the driver for the loan of a pound. ‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be – Shakespeare,’ replies the driver pompously, pressing the button to rewind the window. The hobo pauses, then taps the glass again. The window comes down. The tramp looks the driver in the eye: ‘Cunt – D H Lawrence.’ 

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