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date: 17 January 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter offers a brief history of taboo language in printed and broadcasted form. Starting from 2000 bc Mesopotamia, it reports the constant surfacing of bad language in printed form despite the many efforts to censor it, with examples from the Bible, Egyptian hieroglyphs, Sanskrit texts, Greek and Latin literature, graffiti, and more recent writers. By analysing pre-Christian accounts of taboo language from the canons of several cultures, we realize that a varied panoply of linguistic expressions referring to sexual and scatological elements runs as a constant under the intermittent success of censorship. The language of films and mainstream TV series is also described, with concluding remarks about the reluctant presence of strong language in the press from the three main English-speaking countries.

Keywords: taboo language, insults, cursing, swearing, censorship, language policy

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