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A Survey Of Foul Language In The Ancient World

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Chapter Summary

It should be pointed out that, although Greeks and Romans had decent and indecent words, they did not use them on the same occasions as English speakers. Several of the ways that they did use foul language are discussed in this chapter; but it is worth noting at the outset that Greeks and Romans did not generally use obscene words to fill out speech. Plato and Aristotle provide a fine place to begin a survey of ancient views of obscene language. Aristotle also points out that jokes are a sort of abuse. Since there are laws against verbal abuse, Aristotle reasons, perhaps there should also be laws against abusive joking. The religious rites that incorporated foul language were numerous, and were well enough established that Aristotle, although he wanted to ban foul language outright, felt he must make an exception in their case.

Keywords: abusive joking; Aristotle; English; foul language; Greeks; obscene language; Plato; religious rites; Romans



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