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Tucker, S.S. (1991). Dirty Words. Psychoanalytic Insights. By Ariel Arango. Northvale, NJ and London: Jason Aronson. 1989. Pp. 232.. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 18:126.

(1991). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 18:126

Dirty Words. Psychoanalytic Insights. By Ariel Arango. Northvale, NJ and London: Jason Aronson. 1989. Pp. 232.

Review by:
Sara S. Tucker

Through the psychoanalytic exploration of dirty or obscene words, the author traces and elucidates the vicissitudes of man's earliest passions. While this material is not new to psychoanalysts, the author's way of presenting it results in a fresh and, at times, challenging experience.

Basically, Dirty Words. Psychoanalytic Insights is a simple, straightforward book. The author presents two major theses: Dirty words are taboo because they threaten to awaken prohibited incestuous thoughts and feelings; and an analysis cannot be complete until the patient verbalizes his love life using obscene words. Only in this way can he truly have access to his deepest and most hidden erotic memories and free them from repression. As a corollary, the author contends that dirty words must be accorded a legitimate place in daily life to ensure a healthy society.

The author presents his arguments with varying degrees of success. Critical of psychoanalysts beginning with Freud for relying exclusively on chaste language in their writing and their analytic work, Arango uses erotically charged language as well as obscene words in his exposition. This is a bold and risky venture. When he is successful, as he is in those passages dealing with raw passions transformed into art, literature, mythology, religion and symbolism, the results are poetic and powerful. This method does not work as well with clinical vignettes, where his aim seems to be first to shock and disgust the reader and then to present him with the 'innocent and naive' origins of the proscribed sexual behaviours or desires as well as with their diverse culturally acceptable expressions.

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