Episode 25 of Through the Gates aired via Soundcloud and iTunes Sunday, August 14.
“I would say the ‘f’ word is de-vulgarized now,” said Adams, a historian of the English language who specializes in the history, theory, and practice of lexicography, and has worked on several dictionary projects. “People use it in fairly mainstream situations—and people of status. So saying it with all of your status in a mainstream speech context suggests that it’s far from taboo, but it’s just risky enough, but it’s expressive.”
Adams said he came to conclusion a long time ago that people speak the way they speak for a reason. “If you’re a scholar of this, a linguist, your business is to figure out the reason. It’s not to judge what people are saying so much, it’s to get the human story behind what they’re saying,” he said.
“I don’t buy the argument that profanity is unnecessary, or that slang is unnecessary…it’s the poetry of everyday life.”
Adams is also the author of “Slayer Slang: A Buffy the Vampire Slayer Lexicon” (Oxford, 2003) and “Slang: The People’s Poetry” (Oxford, 2009. He’s also working on a historical glossary of restaurant jargon, tentatively called “The Server’s Lexicon.”
Through the Gates: IU This Week is a collaboration of the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President, The Media School in the College of Arts and Sciences, and the IU Newsroom. All episodes are available through SoundCloud and iTunes, or on the Media School website.