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.