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Obscenity

  • By: Mike Lloyd
  • In: Encyclopedia of Humor Studies
  • Edited by: Salvatore Attardo
  • Subject:General Media, Communication & Cultural Studies, Sociology of Culture

This entry describes the nature of humorous obscenity and outlines the recent history of obscenity in popular culture, including the backlash to it, particularly in the United States. Etymologically, obscenity can be derived from the Latin obscenus, meaning “from or with filth,” or from obscaena, meaning “off stage.” Thus, obscenity has to do with what is deemed not fit to be seen or talked about. Its phenomenological core is feelings of revulsion associated with the breaking of norms about what is morally prohibited. Consequently, there is large social and cultural variation in what is deemed to be obscene, because what is taboo in one group or culture may not be in another. Nevertheless, topics like body parts and functions, bodily deformity, death, ethnicity, mental illness, ...

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