Watch Now! The Beautiful History of Ugly Words


Warning: The content in this video includes strong language that some may find offensive and may not be suitable for children.

Swearing is a fascinating linguistic phenomenon. How did certain words come to acquire the power to shock and offend us? And swearing is also interesting for what it can tell us about culture. People swear about what they care about, so a history of swearing is also a history of what has mattered most to people through the centuries — the divine, the terrifying, and the taboo.

Melissa Mohr has a Ph.D. in Medieval and Renaissance English Literature from Stanford University and is the author of Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing in addition to articles for The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post,, and Holy Sh*t appeared on The Guardian bestseller list and has been called “wonderfully witty,” “intelligent and enjoyable,” “surprising and delightful,” and “just like Hooters, delightfully tacky yet refined.” 

Recorded April 23, 2024.