Presenter Information

Mary Sweeney, Seattle University

Start Date

9-4-2021 3:15 PM

End Date

9-4-2021 4:50 PM

Disciplines

History

Subjects

Swearing -- England -- To 1500 -- Linguistic aspects, Swearing -- England -- To 1500 -- Social aspects, Solidarity, Blasphemy in literature, English letters -- To 1500 -- Qualitative analysis

Description

Abstract: Many scholars who study letters, drama, and literature from late medieval and early modern England focus on political and social content, but recently linguists study this material using linguistics. For example, Melissa Mohr’s work on cursing has opened up new avenues of study. As useful as this is, it only takes up a small slice of English life and the usage of swear words. My research into the letters of elite and gentry men and women such as the Cely and Paston families, reveals how language both establishes social solidarity and disrupts it. I ask why these words were said, question who can say them, and ultimately see if using swear words caused and social disruption within English society. My work uses qualitative analysis of the letters to examine how the correspondents use blasphemy, phrases such as how “God”, “by God’s bones,” “God knows,” and more, to express such things as emotion and social standing. I use sociological theories of power relative to religious and social status in the formation of social scripts to better understand the nuances of languages of power. Looking at the use of swear words matters because it adds demotion to people’s lives and reveals continuity of protected speech.

PART OF SESSION 4D. ORDER AND DISORDER

Comment: Bradley Franco, University of Portland
Chair: Steven Garfinkle, Western Washington University

Petra Ellerby, Western Washington University, undergraduate student
“May the Grass Grow Long: Hierarchy and Destruction in Ancient Mesopotamian Lamentation”

Zion G. Flores, Eastern Washington University, undergraduate student
“Practical Anarchism: The Makhnovist Movement in the Ukraine, 1917–1921”

Gabrielle Goodwin, University of Idaho, undergraduate student
“Changes in the Relationship Between the Horus and Seth: Set-tling the Score”

Mary Sweeney, Seattle University, undergraduate student
“Cursing in Medieval England: ‘By God’s Bones’ and Other Obscenities and Expletives”

Persistent Identifier

https://archives.pdx.edu/ds/psu/35278

Included in

History Commons

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Apr 9th, 3:15 PM Apr 9th, 4:50 PM

Cursing in Medieval England: ‘By God’s Bones’ and Other Obscenities and Expletives

Abstract: Many scholars who study letters, drama, and literature from late medieval and early modern England focus on political and social content, but recently linguists study this material using linguistics. For example, Melissa Mohr’s work on cursing has opened up new avenues of study. As useful as this is, it only takes up a small slice of English life and the usage of swear words. My research into the letters of elite and gentry men and women such as the Cely and Paston families, reveals how language both establishes social solidarity and disrupts it. I ask why these words were said, question who can say them, and ultimately see if using swear words caused and social disruption within English society. My work uses qualitative analysis of the letters to examine how the correspondents use blasphemy, phrases such as how “God”, “by God’s bones,” “God knows,” and more, to express such things as emotion and social standing. I use sociological theories of power relative to religious and social status in the formation of social scripts to better understand the nuances of languages of power. Looking at the use of swear words matters because it adds demotion to people’s lives and reveals continuity of protected speech.

PART OF SESSION 4D. ORDER AND DISORDER

Comment: Bradley Franco, University of Portland
Chair: Steven Garfinkle, Western Washington University

Petra Ellerby, Western Washington University, undergraduate student
“May the Grass Grow Long: Hierarchy and Destruction in Ancient Mesopotamian Lamentation”

Zion G. Flores, Eastern Washington University, undergraduate student
“Practical Anarchism: The Makhnovist Movement in the Ukraine, 1917–1921”

Gabrielle Goodwin, University of Idaho, undergraduate student
“Changes in the Relationship Between the Horus and Seth: Set-tling the Score”

Mary Sweeney, Seattle University, undergraduate student
“Cursing in Medieval England: ‘By God’s Bones’ and Other Obscenities and Expletives”