Wilfred M. McClay at Hedgehog Review:
The work of cultural criticism never ends. A hundred years ago, Thomas R. Marshall, Woodrow Wilson’s vice president, proclaimed that “what this country needs is a really good five-cent cigar.” But who would say that now? Times have changed, tobacco has become an evil weed, and anyway, what the country needs now is a really good four-letter word.
No, I’m not talking about love, although that would be a decent guess, since love is highly desirable and always in short supply. I’m talking about the primordial human need for the genuinely dirty word, or, better yet, a few of them, a finite but reliable stock of good old-fashioned profanities—racy, pungent, transgressive, maybe even a bit radioactive. Words that can shock, provoke, even lead to a barroom brawl.