I am an infrequent but unashamed swearer, as anyone who has shared an office with me will testify (and you know who you are). I have very, very rarely sworn directly at someone. Most of my cursing is targeted at myself or an inanimate object. However, I do confess to swearing about events or people that have pissed me off, on a fairly regular basis too.
I make no excuses for swearing because there are times when a good Anglo-Saxon expletive perfectly articulates the strength of feeling I have about something. In the heat of the moment describing someone as a wanker, fuckwit or arsehole is a much more emotive and succinct way of putting it than “a self-obsessed, arrogant, unpleasant, rude and ignorant person of limited sensitivity and intelligence and of no genetic value to the future improvement of the human race”. One word sums up the twenty six which would otherwise be required to get a half way decent picture of the object of my scorn and disapproval, and somehow it includes the passion which is missing from the more detailed description. I am generally slow to anger, so if I do resort to such a rude title then you know that I am genuinely upset by someone’s behaviour.
Swearing is much more powerful if done selectively and the impact is lessened if over-used. People who intersperse every other word with “fucking” or call everyone a wanker, tend to deserve the title themselves more often than not. And I cannot abide people who swear with abandon in front of, or worse still, at young children. Sadly on more than one occasion I have heard parents screaming at children, no more than four or five years old, to “fucking get over here” or “put that fucking thing down”. Appalling and inexcusable.
However I am equally annoyed by self-righteous, non-swearing people who pontificate and moralise about the slightest damn and blast. I have never, ever been offended by swearing on the television and have difficulty understanding why some people get into such a tizz about it. Swearing is a part of real life and as such I expect to hear it used appropriately in dramas and comedies. The bad guy with the gun wouldn’t be very scary or realistic if he used “gosh darn” instead of “motherfucking” just as Tamsin Greig’s 30 second outburst of profanity at the jobsworth security guard, in Episodes would not be so laugh out loud funny if she’d just said “flipping”. We laugh because we feel her release weeks of pent up frustration and irritation – swearing is a fantastic pressure valve. And a lot less offensive than a smack in the face.
I do try to mind my language in front of my own son but I’m no angel and confess that I am guilty of muttering the odd “bollocks”, “shit” or “bloody” under my breath every now and again. If my husband overhears, he will gently admonish me with a “…less of the casual swearing please Lian” and I will remember to be good for a while.
My language definitely did improve a little when I overheard my boy, just six or seven years old at the time, becoming increasingly frustrated with a toy and saying to himself “…ggrrrr – the damn thing won’t work!”. I loudly “ah-hem’d” and said “excuse me?” only for him to turn his big baby blues on me and reply very sweetly “…it’s alright Mummy, it’s only casualty (sic) swearing and casualty swearing is for children”. Oh dear. As ever, it is out of the mouths of babes that we are enlightened. Mortified that he’d picked up my bad habit of cursing to myself and also his father’s usual chastisement, but highly amused that he’d misheard the expression and misinterpreted it. I was obviously not supposed to use “casualty” swearing because it was for children, not grown-ups. Needless to say I enlightened him and the incident has become part of the family folklore now.
So there we have it. Confessions of an unrepentant potty mouth. You may argue that it’s unnecessary and indicative of a poor vocabulary. In which case I urge you to watch Stephen Fry on the Joys of Swearing …and to shut the *@!# up.
Lian, I nominated you for a Versatile Blogger award http://wp.me/2MIsj
Hi Tracy and season’s greetings to you. Apologies for not responding sooner but December, as ever, is always a whirlwind of activity. I truly appreciate receiving the “Versatile Blogger” award from you and will attempt to respond appropriately asap. Not sure I know 15 other bloggers to nominate in turn so I need to do a bit more research first!
Wishing you and your family the very best for 2013.
You’re a woman after my own heart Lian. Selective swearing about situations, inanimate objects and people who would otherwise call for 26 adjectives by which time the crux of the matter is already being swept out of sight is perfectly legitimate. Long may it continue – cursing and swearing – words that relieve stress (for the person using them at least) and invoke the seriousness and passion of a particular situation. I for one will not be giving them up.
Once again a really good read i look forward to the next one x
A really good read Lian. I agree with you.
Stephen Fry is fickle when it comes to language. He loves pull Alan Davies up on his poor use of grammar, but also wants to argue that language is dynamic and context bound as well
When Stephen swears it is likely to be charming, funny or just plain effective. The same is probably true for most of his peers. Those who swear the most, generally are inflicted with it. It’s more of a nervous twitch which the rest of us feel uncomfortable witnessing.