Bloody useless as it stands, innit?
January 17, 2013 12:40 PM   Subscribe

What were the curse words George Orwell was trying to list?

In Down and Out in Paris and London Orwell writes a short passage on the use and function of curse words and their eventual detachment from their roots. Either he or his editor chose to expunge (or is there a better word to use for this?) the actual curses themselves, leaving this almost humorous passage:
"A word becomes an oath because it means a certain thing, and, because it has become an oath, it ceases to mean that thing. For example, -----. The Londoners do not now use, or very seldom use, this word in its original meaning; it is on their lips from morning till night, but it is a mere expletive and means nothing. Similarly with -----, which is rapidly losing its original sense. One can think of similar instances in French - for example, -----, which is now a quite meaningless expletive. The word -----, also, is still used occasionally in Paris, but the people who use it, or most of them, have no idea of what it once meant."
Is there a public extant copy of the original? I'm assuming the first was "bloody" but I've no guesses for the rest.
posted by komara to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm assuming the two words in this section -
The Londoners do not now use, or very seldom use, this word in its original meaning; it is on their lips from morning till night, but it is a mere expletive and means nothing. Similarly with -----, which is rapidly losing its original sense. One can think of similar instances in French - for example, -----, which is now a quite meaningless expletive.
Would be "shit/e" in London, and "merde" in French (both meaning the same thing).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:42 PM on January 17, 2013


One attempt to fill in the blanks.
posted by Knappster at 12:46 PM on January 17, 2013


I'm sure that when I read Down and Out the swear words were not expurgated. Unfortunately I have no recollection as to the edition (though I'd guess Penguin).

There are a few unexpurgated extracts around the web which should clear up the ambiguities.
posted by pont at 12:46 PM on January 17, 2013


Huh, I always thought it was meant to be blanks, as in, the joke being that any swear word easily fits into any of the blanks, like a mad lib. Guess I was mistaken. On the other hand, I think it's funnier that way.
posted by General Malaise at 12:53 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


The stupid thing about expurgating this text is that Orwall probably chose bugger and bougre (the second example he uses in each language) because they are originally the same word, which has followed a similar linguistic trajectory on both sides of the Channel (though bougre, unlike bugger, has lost any sort of sexual meaning in modern French).
posted by elgilito at 1:11 PM on January 17, 2013


The notes here imply that my memory of reading an uncensored version was probably false. But they do identify the words as fuck, bugger, foutre, and bougre (in that order), on the authority of The Complete Works of George Orwell, edited by Peter Hobley Davison.
posted by pont at 1:15 PM on January 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks, pont. I never would have thought to guess one of the words and Google the resulting phrase (side note: "for example fuck the londoners" is a great example of the value of punctuation). I'll take your last link as the gospel truth on the matter.
posted by komara at 1:42 PM on January 17, 2013


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