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  • Event
  • In-Person: Seaport

PSB: Jess Zafarris, author of 'Words from Hell,' in conversation with Sarah Cole

Event Description

Porter Square Books is thrilled to welcome Jess Zafarris for an event about her book Words from Hell! Sarah Cole, Assistant Professor of Publishing at Emerson College, will join Zafarris in conversation.

Register more and register here.

About Words From Hell

The English language is where words go to be tortured and mutilated into unrecognizable shadows of their former selves. It's where Latin, Greek, and Germanic roots are shredded apart and stitched unceremoniously back together with misunderstood snippets of languages snatched from the wreckage of conquest and colonialism. It wreaks merciless havoc upon grammar and spelling. It turns clinical terms into insults and children's tales into filthy euphemisms.

With an emphasis on understanding where the foulest words in the English language came from-and the disgusting and hilarious histories behind them-this book demonstrates the true filth of our everyday words. But this book is more than just a list of vulgar words and salacious slang. It's a thoughtful analysis of why we deem words as being inappropriate as well as revealing 'good words' that have surprisingly naughty origins.

Dirty-minded word nerds and lewd linguistics lovers will derive unadulterated pleasure in leering at the origins of swear words, sexual lingo, inappropriate idioms, violent vocabulary, and terminology for bodily functions-not to mention the unexpectedly foul origins of words you thought were perfectly innocent. If it's inappropriate, stomach-churning, uncomfortable, or offensive, this book reaches into the dark recesses of history and exposes them for all to see.

True to the Chambers brand, this book combines humor, scholarly research and a beautiful design. It is a book to enjoy, collect and revisit time and time again.

About the Authors

Jess Zafarris is the author of the etymology books Words from Hell and Once Upon a Word. She is also an editor, journalist, content director, game and puzzle maker, and social media strategist and creator.

Sarah Cole is an Assistant Professor of Publishing at Emerson College. Prior to joining the faculty in the Writing, Literature & Publishing department, Sarah worked in publishing for 20 years in the UK at Hachette and Cambridge University Press. Words from Hell was the last book she published after a career-long pursuit to find the perfect author to write a smart book about swear words.


This class will take place in-person at our Center for Creative Writing in Boston's Seaport neighborhood.

Covid-19 Update:

GrubStreet's space will be mask-optional when Boston's Covid-19 Community Level is low or medium. When the Covid-19 Community Level is high, our space will require masks. Please check GrubStreet's Covid-19 page for the latest info on masking and Community Levels before visiting in person.

Space Accessibility:

Our space is ADA accessible with automatic door openers, ADA-compliant restrooms, desk and table spacing, braille signage, and elevator. Our classrooms can be equipped with ALS for hard of hearing individuals. We cannot guarantee a scent-free environment. For more accessibility requests, please contact our Operations team at [email protected] or (617) 695-0075.