This was a fun, nerdy, sciencey book that takes something taboo and unserious and treats it seriously, which very much appeals to me. This is going to be a short review, because I read the book back in the beginning of April, and my memories of the specifics have mostly faded. I remember that for the most part, I found it HIGHLY enjoyable.
Bergen is a linguist and cognitive scientist, so he’s got all the good details. This book is basically everything I wanted from Swearing is Good For You (which cites this book as one of its sources). That book turned out to be pop science, all overview, no details. This book lives in the details, but it is still highly readable, and funny in many places. I can’t remember all the details, because again April, but he basically goes to town on profanity, covering the neuroscience of it, how swearing evolves over time (because language), what swearing is like in other countries, how slurs differ from other types of swearing, and my favorite chapter he spends basically the whole time explaining the weirdness of one single phrase, and it was so nerdy and amazing. There was a lot of other stuff, too. I’m definitely going to listen to this one again in the future so I can lock it in my memory.
I would tentatively recommend the audiobook. Bergen is a talented narrator, and he brings a humor and energy to his own writing (probably all his practice as a lecturer). But, he spends quite a bit of time talking about the hows and whys of slurs, i.e. (don’t highlight if you don’t want to see them) faggot, nigger, retard, etc. END SPOILERS. And because this is a book more in the academic style, and he’s discussing the linguistics and psychology and social science of those words, he does say them, and say them quite frequently. It was jarring every single time, especially the n-word. If that doesn’t sound like a great time to you, don’t do the audio. If you think you can brace yourself to hear them said pretty casually, do the audio. It’s fun otherwise to listen to this one, like attending a rare fun lecture in school.