Bad language school

Today’s Rhymes With Orange:

Effluency, a portmanteau of effluent and fluency, is a nice touch (NOAD2 on effluent: ‘liquid waste or sewage discharched into a river or the sea’) — a genuinely dirty word. Oh, @*#☆! indeed.

There are books that purport to teach people to swear — for instance, Sterling Johnson’s English as a Second F*cking Language (1995) and Watch Your F*cking Language (2004) (the second savaged briefly by Geoff Pullum here) — but so far as I know, no actual classes; this is something you’re supposed to pick up on the street.

I have, however, observed young people practicing their swearing. Once, while Jacques and Elizabeth and I were having coffee at a Palo Alto Peet’s, we eavesdropped on a table of Pali High (Palo Alto High School) students, a couple boys and a couple girls, having an animated conversation in which they earnestly wielded obscenities. Sort of a bad-language lab. It was hard not to smile, because it was all so sweet.

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