By its very nature this blog contains words. If offended by words, please look away now.
MIND YOUR (my) LANGUAGE
A time to swear and a time not to swear.
I swear. It’s something I do. I’m not proud of it, but then I am not proud of using the words orange, snail or Rumpelstiltskin, they are just words that I happen to use.
Swearing is something that seems to produce many different reactions in people. Some people tut, frown and glare back in horror while others just laugh. My mother, however, experiences some sort of temporary hearing loss, because she always says “I beg your pardon,” so I have to say it again but louder.
It is often stated by those who frown upon swearing, that it is the sign of a limited vocabulary, but I beg to differ. If you do the maths, surely it is the sign of an enlarged vocabulary, because I can use every word that they are happy to use plus the swear words. And they are such useful words. English is a wonderful language allowing precise explanation in science, beautiful description in art and some rather terrible script writing in radio advertising. But, words considered bad can be used to embellish and clarify, even adding an entire magnitude of scale to a statement. Let’s take size for instance. Where do you go after small, medium and large? Huge is probably bigger than large, but what next? Enormous? Enormous could be bigger than huge, but it could also be the same. ‘Fucking huge’, however, is clearly much bigger than either large or huge. It is also a more eloquent way of saying very very very very big.
You may suggest that I should find some other way of saying the same thing, but would it be as concise? How does one say ‘You fucking twat’ in as few words and with exactly the same emotion? Frankly, ‘You naughty chap’ doesn’t quite hit the mark, and by not expressing the genuine feeling intended the phrase is less of an insult to the recipient and more an insult to our wonderful descriptive language.
The big C.
There is a hierarchy of swear words and it acts like a cursing currency, albeit on a very personalised scale. Some people are happy to accept two tits to the bum, while others wouldn’t give two fucks for a wank, shit or arse. But, despite trends and fashion the mother of all swear words and top of the list is always the good old C word.
What is it that is so horrific about it? It can’t be the ‘unt’ sound because everyone is happy to use ‘punt’, ‘shunt’ and ‘stunt’. It is not even the complete sound because ‘country’ is perfectly acceptable. If it is not the sound of the word maybe it is the meaning of it. But, surely a word is just the noise we make to represent the meaning of something. That is why when I make the noise that sounds like carrot, everyone knows that I mean carrot. Therefore, if it is the noise that represents the thing, then by saying “the C word”, “see you next Tuesday” or simply spelling it out, you are merely using a different noise to represent that thing.
Despite the reaction it often produces it has become ever more accepted and has even occurred on the BBC in series such as ‘Detectorists’ and ‘Episodes’. Yes, Matt LeBlanc (Joey from Friends) has uttered the unutterable on TV. But, its use goes back much further, and I don’t mean Sting’s use of it in 1981 in the song ‘Rehumanize Yourself’ on the ‘Ghost in the Machine’ album. It is a term that has a history going back centuries. Apparently, Chaucer used it and Shakespeare makes reference to it, so with such highly regarded figures of the English language happy to include it in their vocabulary, I see no reason why it should not be in mine. If you choose not to include it in yours that is up to you, but if you insist that I exclude certain words from my vocabulary maybe I could suggest you remove thunder, bungalow and funnel from yours.
Get over it, you use much worse.
As for the term being offensive and shocking, quite frankly, in a world where we hear the terms rape, murder and female genital mutilation banded about to the point where we become oblivious to the horrific reality, is it really that bad to say cunt?
A time not to swear.
The other morning, I was scurrying about the kitchen going through my finely honed get-to-work routine when something happened. It wasn’t a disaster, but it was enough to make me say ‘For fuck’s sake’. I thought no more about it and carried on with my business. But not for long. Moments later, my 21 month old granddaughter wandered into the kitchen and said ‘Fucks sake’. Everything stopped, eyes widened, mouths dropped and everyone glared at me. Admittedly, I inwardly chuckled to hear such a tiny voice say it, but I knew it was wrong. She wasn’t even in the room when I said it, but this little sponge heard enough to take it in. So now, although I am an advocate of swearing, I am having to make a conscious effort of what I do and don’t say. Not because of the kids learning bad words, because that will happen anyway whether from me or elsewhere. The reason I have to be careful is that I don’t want to get told off again.
If you will excuse me, I have to stop writing now. I have been told to go to the naughty step.