Michael Adams

Michael Adams

Michael Adams is Professor of English at Indiana University at Bloomington and author of In Praise of Profanity and Slang: The People's Poetry.

Articles by Michael Adams


Sometimes, people ask me, “What’s your favorite swear word?” I don’t know why. Also, I don’t know what to say. I’m interested in profanity but not especially invested in one word over another. It’s not a competition. They all have their uses, or we wouldn’t use them. I’d have to say something like, “Well, Fuck! […]

Star Wars scenery

May the Fourth be with you!

May the Fourth be with you! Playing off a pun on one of the movie’s most famous quotes, 4 May is the unofficial holiday in which Star Wars fans across the globe celebrate the beloved blockbuster series. The original Star Wars movie, now known as Star Wars IV: A New Hope, was released on 25 May 1977, but to those […]

twin peaks

The value of Cooper’s ‘straight talk’ in Twin Peaks

When we talk about ‘television language’ — what’s special to a particular series — we usually focus on words or catchphrases or grammatical patterns highlighted, if not invented, on the show. We’re attracted to the verbal antics of The Simpsons, the yadda yadda yadda playfulness of Seinfeld, the zippy slang of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and […]

D'oh and meh are counted among the contributions of The Simpsons to language.

D’oh, meh, and how The Simpsons embiggened English

The first episode of The Simpsons aired twenty-five years ago, on 17 December, 1989, and since then, English has never been the same. Homer, Bart, Lisa, Marge, and their friends in Springfield, Wherever-it-is, have given us fancy words of pure invention, worthy of Lewis Carroll, like cromulent ‘legitimate, but not really’, and words built from […]

The station of Bill and Ted? Check out more about their lexicon here!

The bodacious language of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Keanu Reeves a linguistic icon? That would be an impressive achievement for Reeves, but truth be told, the iconic status doesn’t go so much to Mr Reeves as to one of his most memorable characters – (Theodore) Ted Logan from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989). Ted just wants to make a triumphant music video with […]

The Klingon language is actually spoken by a few people.

Who speaks Klingon?

US cult TV series Star Trek first aired on September 8, 1966. From the beginning it has attracted an unusually large and engaged fan-base, some of whom have been enthusiastic enough to learn Klingon, one of the fictional languages spoken by some of Star Trek’s characters. In today’s blog post, Michael Adams investigates the demographics […]

Invented Languages

Invented languages: from Na’vi and Elvish to Standard English?

When you hear the term ‘invented language’, you probably think first of the famous imaginary languages of fiction, for instance, the mind-numbing Newspeak of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, or the Russian-based criminal argot Nadsat in Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, or Elvish and other languages in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. […]