What the F

  • by Benjamin K. Bergen
  • Narrated by Benjamin K. Bergen
  • 8 hrs and 45 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Nearly everyone swears - whether it's over a few too many drinks, in reaction to a stubbed toe, or in flagrante delicto. And yet, we sit idly by as words are banned from television and censored in books. We insist that people excise profanity from their vocabularies, and we punish children for yelling the very same dirty words that we'll mutter in relief seconds after they fall asleep. Swearing, it seems, is an intimate part of us that we have decided to selectively deny.
That's a damn shame.
Swearing is useful. It can be funny, cathartic, or emotionally arousing. As linguist and cognitive scientist Benjamin K. Bergen shows us, it also opens a new window onto how our brains process language and why languages vary around the world and over time.
In this groundbreaking yet ebullient romp through the linguistic muck, Bergen answers intriguing questions: How can patients left otherwise speechless after a stroke still shout "Goddamn!" when they get upset? When did a cock grow to be more than merely a rooster? Why is crap vulgar when poo is just childish? Do slurs make you treat people differently? Why is the first word that Samoan children say not mommy but eat shit? And why do we extend a middle finger to flip someone the bird?
Smart as hell and funny as f--k, What the F is mandatory listening for anyone who wants to know how and why we swear.

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What the Critics Say

"A lively study with the potential to offend just about anyone.... From a linguistic and sociological viewpoint, the book is illuminating, even playful...an entertaining...look at an essential component of language and society." (Publishers Weekly)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Take A Deep Breath, Hold Your Nose, Dive Right In

Quick! Who here hasn't come across a foreign language and asked, "Yeah, but what are the baaad words?" Well, okay; maybe that's just me...
From the get go, you're immersed in the world of slurs, and taboo words. At first you feel like a frog dumped in a pot of boiling water, but as you get through the text, the water becomes oddly just fine.
After all, this is more than just a book of lists (tho' there are plenty that'll make your jaw drop). It's a fascinating world of cultures, linguistics, religion, and more.
What's most interesting through it all, are the various tests scientists use to analyze and evaluate words/phrases/concepts that I can't list, or Audible will flag my review (and I get the whole "pending approval" thing far too often; I'm a cherub! What are they talking about?!?). You'll listen to studies about brain hemispheres and mouth lateralizations, power and disempowerment, even studies on pain tolerance.
If you can handle the liberal use of questionable (or flat-out extreme) words, this book is for you. Filled with cheeky good-humor, it's a delightful romp into what used to be extreme but is now tame, what is now tame but could be worse.
Quick! When is a finger just a finger?
When you're trying to say "brothers" in Japanese Sign Language... get your mind out of the gutter :)
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- Gillian

Informative meets entertaining

Warning, if you're sensitive about profane word use, this probably will be a hard one to handle.
But I would expect people to get that from the subject matter.

Beyond that warning, if you like words and language, this will be well worthing the listen. The reader does a great job and the book ends up being a much more scholarly approach to the topic than I would have guessed.
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- Cmat

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-06-2016
  • Publisher: Gildan Media, LLC