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Friday 18 October: 7:30pm - 9:00pm

Jesus College, Frankopan Hall, Jesus Lane , CB5 8BJ

Everyone is familiar with some words that are generally avoided in polite conversation. Modern readers of the Harry Potter novels know who is referred to as ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’ just as readers of the Hebrew Bible understand the representation of the name of God through four letters which cannot be spoken. What can and can’t be said varies across time and place: to the Victorians ‘trousers’ were ‘unmentionables’.

In this talk James Clackson, Professor of Comparative Philology, will show how processes of linguistic taboo work across different societies, and how they change over time. He will demonstrate how some of our current English vocabulary reflects our ancestors’ avoidances of unspeakable words.

This talk will contain examples of obscene, offensive and controversial English vocabulary. It is accessible to adults and children those in Year 7 and above.

Booking Information

Booking required


Full access, Accessible toilet

Additional Information

Age: 16+, Talk, Arrive on time, Free