The Casual Optimist

Books, Design and Culture

Holy Sh*t, Batman


Colin Burrows reviews Holy Shit: A Brief History of Swearing by Melissa Mohr for the London Review of Books:

Really good swearing relies on formulaic elements, but needs to be precisely adapted to the moment. In this respect dear old Robin in the 1960s Batman TV series was one of the best swearers, though his lips were never soiled with a common-or-garden profanity. He could combine ‘Holy’ with more or less anything in order to create his trademark ejaculations, which were always to the point. Number two in my list of all-time favourites is ‘Holy chocolate éclair!’ Number one has to be ‘Holy uncanny photographic mental processes!’…

…The chances are that even the young audiences of the 1960s Batman TV series knew that there was something Robin was not saying every time he uttered a variant of his catchphrase. (I was there. It felt naughty.) A formula for generating euphemisms can be as creative as a formula for generating swear words: ‘frog’s knickers’ was my mother’s favoured way of flirting with the ‘f’ word, but we also have ‘effing’ and ‘frigging’ and (on Battlestar Galactica) ‘frakking’ too, though that particular euphemism may have had its day now that ‘fracking’ means frakking up the landscape in order to squirt gas out of it. One thing Robin never dared say, bless his little golden rayon cape, was ‘Holy Shit’, the uttering of which would certainly have KAPOWED him right off prime-time TV in those tender-eared days.

The book cover was designed by Lisa Force.

(Yes, it is quite possible that any review in which repeatedly references the Batman TV show  in a somewhat relevant way will be linked to on this blog)

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