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'Impeach the motherf*****': Can the subaltern curse?

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"People love you and you win," Representative Rashida Tlaib, the newly elected Democratic US Representative of Michigan, was captured in a video saying to an enthusiastic audience of her supporters: "And when your son looks at you and says: 'Momma, look, you won. Bullies don't win.' And I said, 'Baby, they don't.' Because we're going to go in there, and we're going to impeach the motherf*****."

The blunt comment gave the US liberal establishment a jitter: "Impeachment was always going to hang heavily over a divided Washington," the New York Times reported, "but it took little more than 24 hours this week for a freshman House Democrat's exuberant, expletive-laden impeachment promise to upend the bonhomie of a new Congress and prompt President Trump, by his own telling, to ask the newly elected speaker if Democrats planned to impeach him."

The Republicans, of course, went off at Ms Tlaib. But some of her own Democratic colleagues were also offended. "I don't really like that kind of language," Democratic US Representative of New York and Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler, was reported to have said. "But more to the point, I disagree with what she said. It is too early to talk about that intelligently. We have to follow the facts."

The question was far less about the impeachment part and far more the expletive part. But why the offence? What had the young representative done, or said, to be more precise? What lies under this thin veneer of bourgeois politesse?

The study of cursing is indeed a fascinating field. In his book Why We Curse: A neuro-psycho-social theory of speech (1999), Dr Timothy Jay, Emeritus Professor........

© Al Jazeera