This chapter examines a variety of ‘abusive words’ and the circumstances of their expression. It describes the language of insult between parties, and the damage done by rumour and false news. It looks into the ways in which private exchanges became part of the public transcript using the records of local and national courts, councils, governors, magistrates, and diarists to recover the words that early modern authorities deemed transgressive. In attempting to reconstruct the circumstances of these exchanges in order to eavesdrop on past conversations, it offers a sample of the disorderly speech that came into the courts. The records show antisocial language, insult, and scolding; scandal, slander, defamation, libel; and the spreading of rumour and false news. These were products of social interactions that gave voice to the sins of the tongue.
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