August 24, 2005

An unspeakable title

My friend Caroline Henton lent me her copy of another book with an unspeakable title. In this case it is not a matter of modesty, as when NPR refuses to read a title out loud because it contains an Anglo-Saxon term for excrement, but rather that there is strictly no possible out-loud reading: it is a book whose orthographic title has no phonetic counterpart (like the two films I have mentioned elsewhere). The author is Sterling Johnson, an ESL teacher and lecturer from Pacific Grove, California, and the title is Watch Your F*cking Language: How to Swear Effectively, Explained in Explicit Detail and Enhanced by Numerous Examples Taken from Everyday Life (New York: Thomas Dunne Books). The asterisk is there even in the Library of Congress cataloguing data. Incidentally, I am not recommending the book. It only just manages to get to page 100 by dint of much wasted space and lots of large gaps between paragraphs, and in my opinion it s*cks. At least, I did not s*cc*mb to its charms. Caroline will get her copy back *ns*llied and relatively *nth*mbed. It's not the first book with an asterisk in the title; it's not even the first by Sterling Johnson, who has an earlier book entitled English as a Second F*cking Language.

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at August 24, 2005 06:40 PM