In Defence of Swearing

I swear a lot. I’ll be the first to admit it. I’m the worst person to have around your kids because I swear so casually that I don’t notice I’m doing it. I do try to remember when kids are around, but even that bothers me to some degree. They’re just words.

[Editor’s note—even though it should be obvious—: strong language after the jump]

Though I do understand that little Sally turning up in a schoolyard and telling her teacher to go fuck herself is a potential parent/teacher-relation nightmare.

But they are just words. Of course, they’re words with a certain power. All words have power. Love is not a swear word but it carries enormous power. As does hate. The taboo nature of swearing gives these words added power. We can deliberately drop them like bombs. You want some attention in a loud conversation? Don’t talk any louder than everyone else, just swear more. People will sort of grind to a halt and look at you, their expressions all cautious and surprised. But you got their attention.

That’s why it really bothers me when people say, “Swearing just shows a lack of vocabulary and an inability to express yourself properly.” Fuck off, you pompous cunt. Not swearing shows an inability to use the words that would express your position most clearly.

For example, if someone is all up in your face, as the kids say these days, what expresses your real emotion more:

Go away!

or

Fuck off!

It’s not a case of lacking vocabulary. It’s a case of picking the most powerful word for the occasion – the right word. We recently visited the Writers’ Museum in Edinburgh. The place was a bit underwhelming, to be honest. But while there we got a set of fridge magnets with all of Shakespeare’s best insults on them. A few choice ones include:

Cream faced loon! MacBeth

and

Thou crusty batch of nature. Troilus & Cressida

Or my personal favourite:

Thou elvish-mark’d, abortive, rooting hog. Richard III

But, clever and entertaining as they are, they don’t really work in today’s world for really expressing what you want to say. As I mentioned above, I can understand tempering your language around kids. Give them as much time being all sweet and innocent as possible. But don’t fear the usefullness of some quality, well placed swearing. Don’t overdo it or just swear every other word for the sake of it. That does just sound dumb. But equally, if a situation calls for a powerful word, don’t be afraid to use one.

And don’t ever tell me that swearing shows a lack of vocab or an inability to express yourself, because that’s clearly a load of bollocks.

 

This is a cross-posting from Alan Baxter‘s The Word.

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