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Profanity, Obscenity and the Media
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This is the second volume of Melvin J. Lasky's The Language of Journalism series, praised as a "brilliant" and "original" study in communications and contemporary language, and as "a joy to read." When it was first published, it broke ground in focusing on the comparative styles and prejudices of mainstream American and British newspapers, and in its trenchant analysis of their systematic debasement of language in the face of obligatory platitudes and compulsory euphemisms. Lasky documents the growing crisis affecting honest, thoughtful, and independent journalism in the Western world. He extends the scope of his first volume in the trilogy and deepens the interpretation. He also adds a personal touch of wit and anecdote, as one might expect from an experienced international journalist and historian. Lasky's examination of the use of formerly forbidden language is a triumph of sinuous semantics. In his incisive analysis, we see the tortuous struggle of a once Puritanized literary culture writhing to break free of censorship and self-censorship. This volume on the phenomenon of profanity adds another dimension to Lasky's thesis on mass culture's trivialization of real social and political phenomena. It also underscores our society's embrace of banality, in standardizing politically correct jargon and slang. Readers of the first volume will find here a new range of references to illuminate the detail of what our newspapers have been publishing.
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Table of Contents

Introduction Part 1: Towards a Theory of Journalistic Malpractice 1. From A. N. Whitehead to Irving Kristol Illusions and Self-Deception Hard Facts and Soft Future Adversarial Culture "Sensations": From Silent Images to Talking Pictures Art News and New Art Of Nihilism and Mendacity 2. The Little Lie and the Big Story Hitler's Hoax The Counterfeiter's Fiction Mysteries of the Piltdown Forgery 3. Difficulties in Grappling with Reality The Reporter Rearranges the Scene Janet Cooke and the Color of Truth The Duping of Hersh's "Camelot" Martin Walser's "Catechism of Correctness" 4. The New Shamanism Part 2: Sex and Other Ongoing Titillations 5. The Ennui of Obscenity Between Sexual Virility and Erotic Fatigue Low Notes in High C A-Word to S-Word, and their Synonyms Of Ideology and Scatology The Snafu Known as Swag Filling Out the Missing Details Private Parts, Public Lives Alphabet Soup Mr. Bloomberg's "$!*@&" 6. "O Propheta" The Last Refuge Porno Ploys and Crackable Codes A*c*c*o*m*p*l*i*c*e*s, or: Participatory Obscenity Steiner and Burgess On "Love" 7. Chaucer and a Choice of Taboo Words 8. Strong Odors, Blurred Pictures 9. Obsessions with the S-Word 10. The Case of the Missing F**r-L****r Word 11. Asterisks: From Byron to Madonna 12. Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad F-Word? 13. Tiger, the Times, and a Dreaded Black Asterisk 14. Morphing the A-Word 15. Terms of Agreement and Endearment 16. The Mergenthaler Option 17. A Matter of Illegitimacy 18. The Guard that Failed 19. The Desperate Search for "the Good Bits" Sporting Language Tom Jones and the Language Police 20. Swearing is the Curse Part 3: Literary Origins and Popular Consequences 21. Sources of Malpractice 22. From Wordsworth to Orwell and Hemingway 23. The Prose We Write and Speak 24. Dealing with the Grandmother Tongue The Continuing Domestication of Yiddishisms Leo Rosten's Gallimaufry 25. Quotations that were Unquoted 26. Dirty Realism in the White House and Beyond 27. Towards a Vocabulary of Pop Diplomacy Notes Index

About the Author

Melvin J. Lasky (1920-2004) was the editor of Encounter from 1958 to 1990. Before that he was the editor of Der Monat in Berlin, Germany.

Reviews

-In taking on vulgarity, profanity, and obscenity in US and international news media, Lasky looks at the use of asterisks, ampersands, and exclamation marks to mask curse words. He also notes the migration of the asterisk in newspapers from curse words to become the equivalent of journalistic footnotes, e.g., in describing the -stain- on Monica Lewinsky's dress... Summing Up: Highly recommended. Comprehensive collections in journalism and literary criticism supporting graduate study and research.- --R. A. Logan, Choice -This is a very discursive volume, almost more like an enlightened and erudite discussion, from a man who has observed (and clipped!) the press for decades.- --Chris Sterling, editor Communication Booknotes Quarterly "In taking on vulgarity, profanity, and obscenity in US and international news media, Lasky looks at the use of asterisks, ampersands, and exclamation marks to mask curse words. He also notes the migration of the asterisk in newspapers from curse words to become the equivalent of journalistic footnotes, e.g., in describing the "stain" on Monica Lewinsky's dress... Summing Up: Highly recommended. Comprehensive collections in journalism and literary criticism supporting graduate study and research." --R. A. Logan, Choice "This is a very discursive volume, almost more like an enlightened and erudite discussion, from a man who has observed (and clipped!) the press for decades." --Chris Sterling, editor Communication Booknotes Quarterly "In taking on vulgarity, profanity, and obscenity in US and international news media, Lasky looks at the use of asterisks, ampersands, and exclamation marks to mask curse words. He also notes the migration of the asterisk in newspapers from curse words to become the equivalent of journalistic footnotes, e.g., in describing the "stain" on Monica Lewinsky's dress... Summing Up: Highly recommended. Comprehensive collections in journalism and literary criticism supporting graduate study and research." --R. A. Logan, Choice "This is a very discursive volume, almost more like an enlightened and erudite discussion, from a man who has observed (and clipped!) the press for decades." --Chris Sterling, editor Communication Booknotes Quarterly

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