St. Paul Pioneer Press
St. Paul / Minneapolis, Minnesota
August 21, 2005
Former Wisconsin Prof Edits Journal to Swear By
Maledicta, a collection of the profane and vulgar, is back in print after
by David Hawley
After an eight-year hiatus, Maledicta, also known as the "International
Journal of Verbal Aggression," is back in print.
And it's as unexpurgated as ever.
"Maledicta" is Latin for "bad words," and the latest edition,
Volume 13, is chock full of them. This should please those who swear by the journal,
though the prudish are encouraged to avoid it.
"We have lots of fans in Minnesota," said Maledicta founder and
editor Reinhold Aman, a former teacher at the University of Wisconsin who now lives
in Santa Rosa, Calif., with a score of pet cats and boxes crammed with yet-to-be-published
In fact, Aman says Minnesotans of Finnish heritage may be interested in reading an
article in the latest issue that explores common Finnish epithets ("Helvetti!")
and euphemisms for taboo and vulgar words. Finns are known to be a reticent people,
so it's not surprising that they've figured out ways to say vulgar things without
being too vulgar.
On the other hand, the article's author, Helena Halmari, notes that some expressions
that aren't vulgar at all are avoided in Finland because the words merely resemble
offensive words. Talk about suppressed.
But we digress.
Aman, who has a doctoral degree in pre-15th century German language and literature,
takes pride in publishing a journal that is both scholarly and, well, offensively
On the scholarly side, the new issue has an article on sexual terms used by writers
Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin and Theodore Dreiser, plus an article on "scatological
flyting" in the teaching of an obscure medieval monk named Abbot Aelfric.
But it also includes a series of filthy limericks, all relating to the sexual experiences
of a character named Joe Zeugma. There's also an article that purports to explain
the real meaning of words in newspaper personals ads. "40-ish" in women's
ads means 49, for example, and "mature" in men's ads means "older
than your father."
There's also a list of unconsciously hilarious quotes from American athletes. Sample:
A remark by former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann: "Nobody in football should
be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein."
A fixture of every issue, including the newest one, is a selection of jokes, riddles
and topical humor submitted by readers and printed under the heading "Kakologia."
Because of a publishing backlog of eight years, the column starts with offensive
jokes -- really, really offensive jokes -- about the death of Diana, Princess of
Wales, and moves forward in time, including groaningly offensive jokes about the
destruction of the World Trade Center. Be warned: Maledicta is unsparing.
It may seem strange that the stolid Upper Midwest -- Milwaukee, to be specific --
gave birth to a journal devoted to obscenities, blasphemies, offensive jokes and
other "negatively valued words." Back in the 1970s, the German-born Aman,
now 69, gave up a teaching job at Milwaukee's branch of the University of Wisconsin
when he was told that "verbal aggression" was not a suitable subject for
serious academic research.
He published the first volume of Maledicta in 1977. At the time, the idea
was unique, Aman said.
"Back then, Maledicta was a very bold thing to do for a scholar,"
Aman said. "That's because 99.9 percent (of the academic community) looked down
on it, even though they used foul language in private life."
Times have changed, Aman says. "Now there's so much bilge over the air and on
the Internet that I think Maledicta is not as unique as it used to be,"
he said. "But there's only one Maledicta in the world, even though the
world is flooded with smut."
In recent decades, Aman's personal life has been anything but rosy. In 1993, he was
convicted of sending threatening letters to a judge who had ruled in favor of his
ex-wife during a messy divorce case. He spent nearly 16 months behind bars. He attributes
the eight-year hiatus of Maledicta to a series of illnesses and financial
"But I'm already starting on Maledicta 14," Aman said during an
interview last week. "If I can get enough shekels to come in, it will be out
in 2006. I will publish as long as I can look at a screen and my fingers work."
David Hawley can be reached at email@example.com or 651-228-5257.
Maledicta 13 can be purchased by sending $22 to P.O. Box 14123, Santa Rosa,
Calif. 95402. For further information and for the cost of international orders, go
to the Maledicta Web site at www.sonic.net/maledicta or contact editor Reinhold Aman
directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2005 by David Hawley and St. Paul Pioneer Press
All Rights Reserved.
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