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Going Transatlantic!

The fine (and currently freezing) folks in Canada have been warming up with Swearing is Good for You thanks to House of Anansi! (30% off everything at the time of writing! Get your Christmas presents now!)

I’m pleased to announce that the rather beautiful U.S. edition, published by W.W. Norton, will be out early in the new year (January 23rd.)

Swearing Is Good for You 978-1-324-00028-0

From the W.W. Norton’s website comes this glowing (but entirely fair!) writeup:

In this sparkling debut work of popular science, Emma Byrne examines the latest research to show how swearing can be good for you. With humor and colorful language, she explores every angle of swearing… Taking readers on a whirlwind tour through scientific experiments, historical case studies, and cutting-edge research on language in both humans and other primates, Byrne defends cursing and demonstrates how much it can reveal about different cultures, their taboos and their values.

The U.S. version can be preordered now from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, Indiebound, and Powell’s (Hello Portland!)

Feeling Festiv(al)

I have some exciting news to come about personal appearances for autumn and winter 2019. The first event in the programme is now live.

Canterbury Festival Programme, 19th Oct – 2nd Nov 2019

I’ll be speaking at Canterbury Festival on the evening of Monday 21st October. I’ll be talking about

  • The science of swearing,
  • What we’ve learned since the book came out,
  • Why I know own a stuffed llama,
  • And some of the funniest interview questions I’ve dealt with.

There may also be some digressions on the neuroscience of the parental brain (especially my parental brain) and whether that makes you more or less likely to swear.

If you’re hungry for some playfully astute science in a room of similarly nerdy people, come along and be part of the fun. Tickets are available now.

PICTFOR Summer Reception

I was lucky enough to be asked to compère the Parliamentary Internet, Communications, and Technology Forum summer reception. PICTFOR is an all-party group that helps to shape policy by ensuring that MPs and Lords are well informed.

selfie on the riverside terrace at the UK parliament building
Houses of Parliament Terrace – a very nice place for tea

I was particularly honoured to be able to introduce Carly Kind, the new director of the Ada Lovelace Institute. A human rights lawyer specialising in privacy and digital rights, she is an all round kick ass person!

I also got to play with some amazing VR surgery training tools. I remember seeing some talks about the very earliest stages of combining haptics and VR back in my PhD days (the early 2000s.) It was a humbling experience. Feeling every vibration, every change in elasticity and plasticity, I found it hard to hold on to the idea that I was standing at a drinks reception, rather than wrist deep in someone’s body.  It made me want to reread The Butchering Art, just thinking of how far we’ve come.

And somewhat delightfully, I got to be part of the fancy hair colour squad with Lady Neville-Rolfe!

Damn fun day all around!

Meeting the Pink Alpaca

The mystery unravelled after a little online sleuthing yesterday…

List of Wikipedia pages I visited

My search history took me to some new places

Internet users in China have a long and illustrious history of getting around censorship with memes. I’d heard a bit about this when Chinese censors refused to pass the Winnie the Pooh film because of a meme. But I’d never met the Grass Mud Horse until yesterday.

This strange alpaca (not llama) first appeared in the late 2000s on Baidu; a heretofore undiscovered but resilient creature. Its name in Mandarin is cǎo ní mǎ (草泥马) which sounds close enough to cào nǐ mā (肏你妈), or “fuck your mother.”

An anonymous zoologist on Baidu reported that the cǎo ní mǎ lives in the 马勒戈壁 (Mahler Gobi) desert [1], and is in constant danger from aggressive 河蟹, héxiè (river crabs.) [2]

Print of an alpaca being threatened by a crab. The alpaca is large and calm, the crab is small but aggressive

The grass-mud horse and the river crab from the National Gallery of Australia. Artist Jessi Wong

Ai WeiWei posed naked with nothing but a 草泥马 to cover his modesty. 草泥马 dolls and plushies are sold, and 草泥马 pins can be bought. 草泥马 has stories, memes, comics, and songs.

I couldn’t be more proud of the cheeky, rebellious, subversive 草泥马 and I’m thrilled that it is the mascot for SIGFY in China.

[1] 妈了个屄, māle ge bī, translates to “your mother’s cunt”

[2] 和谐, héxié meaning harmonious society. Posts that have been removed by censors are said to have been 和谐 or “harmonised.”

Is it a naked llama?

I love getting copies of the translated editions of Swearing is Good for You. Like babies, they’re all unique and it’s not done to have favourites. From the subtle not to Never Mind the Bollocks… of the UK edition, to the cute kid flipping the bird on the US edition, to the beautiful F*ck Yeah pill on the US one.

But also like babies, some are…stranger than others? One edition turned up yesterday – thank you to CITIC Press and Felicity Bryan Associates – which has me a bit perplexed:

Picture of Emma holding the chinese edition of Swearing is Good for You
What the actual llama? Is this rude in China?

I’m astounded that anyone would take on the job of translating SIGFY because strong language is so culturally specific. But nothing has made me more aware of this fact than the cover of the Chinese edition.

Help me out, please, experts in Chinese culture. Is this rude? Does the word for llama sound like a swearword? Are Llamas somehow taboo? Is it even a llama? I will send this copy to the first person who can clear up the mystery! Answers on a tweet to @sciwriby please!

谢谢!

Strong Women, Strong Language

One of the absolute best things about writing Swearing is Good for You is how many brilliant, inspiring, supportive women I’ve had the chance to work with. I’ll talk more about my agent and publisher in another post, but in this one, I want to give a shout-out to three women I’ve had the enormous privilege to take part in discussions with.

First, meet Jessica Fostekew, comedian by trade and kick arse smart arse by inclination! She and I will be appearing together on November 12th 2017 at Stylist Live on the Thrive stage, helping 175 women get in touch with their unapologetic bad arse selves.

Earlier this week I also got to take part in one of the most fun episodes of Radio Three’s Free Thinking that I think there’s ever been! Poet Bridget Minamore and Comedian and Trump heckler Janey Godley and me all joined historian John Gallagher and host Matthew Sweet for a discussion of the pros and cons of swearing.  

I don’t normally get to work with anywhere near this many women (something I’m always actively trying to fix in my role working in AI) and it’s an absolute joy spending time with smart (and sweary) sisters!