On Cussing

Katherine Dunn

£10.95

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Tin House Books
26 March 2019
ISBN: 9781947793262
Paperback

From the publisher

Fuck the Fuckity Fuckin’ Fucker. Readers of Katherine Dunn won’t be surprised that this was her father’s favorite sentence, or that, as a young girl, she heard it as a kind of profane poem, a secret song. For many of us, the language of Geek Love carries a similar staying power, born of Dunn’s agile use of language and her strange, beautiful diction. And as a true exegete of the expletive, she remained undividedly devoted to obscenity―both as scholar and practitioner.

In On Cussing, Dunn sketches a brief history of swear words and creates something of a field guide to their types and usages, from the common threat (“I’ll squash you like a shithouse mouse”) to the portmanteau intensifier (“Fan-fucking-tastic”). But she also explores their physiology―the physical impact on the reader or listener―and makes an argument for how and when to cuss with maximum effect. Equal parts informative and hilarious, this volume—drawn from a lecture given to the Pacific University MFA in Writing program—is a must-have for anyone looking to more successfully wield their expletives, be it in writing or in everyday speech.