Profanity used to be about someone swearing insincerely to God. Then the Reformation came along and made profanity about sex and the body.
Today, our most unspeakable words are slurs against other groups at a time when BLM, #MeToo, and cancel culture are driving our cultural narrative.
We talk about the past, present, and future of profanity.
- John McWhorter teaches linguistics, American studies, and music history at Columbia University. He’s a contributing editor to The Atlantic and host of Slate’s Lexicon Valley podcast. His new book is Nine Nasty Words: English in the Gutter: Then, Now, and Forever
Colin McEnroe and Cat Pastor contributed to this show.