A ruddy good read. Filthy English; The how why and what of everyday swearing by Peter Silverton. Review.


I was gifted this book for my Christmas a few years ago and it has been my water closet reading of choice ever since. 1,000 or so days of snatched consumption later and I’m ready to share with you how colossal an achievement the writing of this essential book is for anyone who has any curiosity at all in the use and etymology of language.

Even (especially) foul language.

1,000 or so days of it enduring twice, thrice daily dramatic changes in the humidity of its environment, thanks to our ferociously hot shower, has rendered it a somewhat punch drunk shadow of its former self; limp, wrinkled and long parted from its spine; it has a heroic feel about it.

I think that is appropriate.

Why so good? A book about swearing?

Well, for a start, and before you think I’m just courting controversy, this is not a book that “gies you your cheapies” as we used to say as youngsters (cheapies being cheap thrills). Not very much of it is funny, none of it is gratuitous even though the word cunt (and I will not resort to **** as that would be to entirely undermine its authority) is used perhaps 300 times, maybe more. ‘Fuck’ probably chalks up triple that word count and of course we have many, many more gloriously lewd and blushingly frank curses.

Frankly, it’s a fuckfest.

Not only that, but we learn how to swear in every language from Romanian to Mongolian and pretty much everywhere in between.

What’s the point you may very well ask?

Well, in turns it’s a history lesson, an etymological travelogue like none other I’ve experienced, a science (biological) primer and a visceral insight into cultural expression.

That might still leave you asking yourself so what? But it’s also a darned well-written and authoritative tome and endlessly fascinating and revealing.

Everyone should know their arse from their asswipe and this is the place to discover it.

You’ll fucking love it.