Four-Letter Words

An excerpt from my next book Damn Yankee Buttons

“We will cease to be so angry once we cease to be so hopeful. – Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy


Alain de Botton’s take on Montaigne is worth the price. He quotes Montaigne: “Upon the highest throne in the world, we are seated, still, upon our asses. Kings and philosophers shit: and so do ladies.”

In the sixteenth century, Montaigne said that! But it’s no more surprising than the fact that back then they knew all there was to know about sex. “The genital activities of mankind are so natural . . . what have they done to make us never dare to mention them without embarrassment and to exclude them from serious orderly conversation? We are not afraid to utter the words kill, thieve, or betray; but those others we only dare to mutter through our teeth.”

In the spirit of Montaigne, “Fuck” is considered an obscene four-letter word but “kill,” another four-letter word, is not. The word that describes the creation of life is obscene and the word that causes death is not.

About Sam's Branch

I joined the Peace Corps in 1961 as West Virginia’s first volunteer. Go to to order my book Imagonna: Peace Corps Memories. I am the eighth generation of my family born in the Big Coal River Valley of West Virginia. My father and grandfather were underground coal miners. I have a chemical engineering degree from West Virginia University (WVU). After training to make sidewinder missiles, I joined the Peace Corps and taught chemistry and coached the track team at a secondary school in Nigeria. Since that time, I was WVU’s first full time foreign student advisor and worked in urban outreach, organic farming, construction labor, and high school teaching. I recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy (, and recently retired from the board of directors of the West Virginia Kanawha State Forest Foundation ( I am still on the board of the Labor History Association and the West Virginia Environmental Education Association and recently joined the board of the West Virginia Civil Liberties Union. I am active in the campaign to stop the destructive practice of mountain top removal strip mining in the Appalachian Mountains. You may contact me at or my blog samsbranch.wordpress.
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