Filthy English, By Peter Silverton

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The Independent Culture

This book may not be the perfect Christmas present for Great Aunt Ethel. There is, as the TV warnings point out, strong language from the start. This was also true of the English language.

"Queynte" was acceptable when used by the Wife of Bath, though Shakespeare had to spell it out in Twelfth Night: "There be her very Cs, her Us and her Ts: and thus she makes her great Ps." When the "and" is pronounced as "n", a laugh is assured. Silverton's often hilarious exploration of potty talk ranges from "bloody" (from the "bloods" – posh Georgian rowdies) to a favourite term of hip-hoppers shorted to "Your mother!" as long ago as the 19th century. Silverton might be interested to know that Zappa had to extend his band's name to Mothers of Invention for reasons of politeness.