“What the F” – A Book Talk with Professor Benjamin Bergen

Posted On: April 14, 2017

Nearly everyone swears—whether it’s over a few too many drinks, in reaction to a stubbed toe, or in flagrante delicto. And yet, we sit idly by as words are banned from television and censored in books. We insist that people excise profanity from their vocabularies and we punish children for yelling the very same dirty words that we’ll mutter in relief seconds after they fall asleep. Swearing, it seems, is an intimate part of us that we have decided to selectively deny.

Benjamin Bergen explores these behaviors in his book, What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves. As a Professor in the Department of Cognitive Science at UC San Diego, Bergen studies language and cognition in the laboratory and in the wild.

While writing his 2012 title, Louder Than Words: The New Science of How the Mind Makes Meaning, he began work on What the F as a means of procrastination. Now, 7 years in the making, his newest book answers intriguing questions: How can patients left otherwise speechless after a stroke still shout Goddamn! when they get upset? Why is crap vulgar when poo is just childish? Do slurs make you treat people differently? Why is the first word that Samoan children say not mommy but eat shit? And why do we extend a middle finger to flip someone the bird? With over 50 academic publications, Bergen’s goal behind “What the F” is “cognitive science for everyone.”

Join us as we learn why swearing has the unique ability to reveal things about brain function, human evolution, and social cognition.

This event is free and open to the public. No RSVP is required. For more information, contact Serafin Raya at s1raya@ucsd.edu.

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