People are often shocked by profanity, but after all, that’s the point. Profanity is a kind of social punctuation that we use when we need to shock, or describe in ways that other words just may not suffice. Perhaps few profanities today are as common or more attuned to our celebrity culture than the A-Word. A word that linguist Geoffrey Nunberg, in his new work Ascent of the A-Word: Assholism, the First Sixty Years , ties to the sense of entitlement that permeates so much of our culture.
My conversation with Geoffrey Nunberg: