“You taught me language; and my profit on’t
Is, I know how to curse.”
As an avid consumer of literature, film, and television (some of it high quality, some of it Ninja Warrior UK), I am no stranger to a good old British swear word, and a few international ones too. It is inevitable I will hear someone swear if I am around the general public, or watching something aimed at adults, it seems ingrained in our society. We could debate all day and night about levels of offensiveness of each individual swear word but surely by now we know it is basically objective, yes? The age old “You must be an illiterate swine if you swear like a navvy” should have been put to bed years ago too. The more creativity one puts into what words they choose, and why, surely does nothing but act as a passionate or humorous addition to their vocabulary?
There is a certain amount of joy to be taken from learning the offensive words of another culture, almost like having a secret handshake to an exclusive club, a little shove towards cultural authenticity. While learning English as a foreign language, students should be introduced to a brief history of British swearing, from William Shakespeare and John Donne, to Monty Python’s Flying Circus and The Young Ones. Donne was the first poet (through my GCSE English teacher) to introduce me to the word ‘cunt’, and hilarity was abound when I first watched Monty Python’s Life of Brian, age 13, confronted by “Biggus Dickus” and his wife “Incontintentia Buttocks”.
Swearing could be used as a creative way to express oneself, Shakespeare himself was a genius at this compared to his vulgar counterpart Ben Jonson, who littered his work with many a “shit on y’head” but nary a “raw-boned dogfish” which is a far more interesting way to tell someone how you feel. If you didn’t know already, ‘raw-boned’ is supposed to mean you are such a man-whore that your penis has worn down to the ‘bone’… Ick.
On the other hand I find the word ‘fuck’ to be the most satisfying word I have ever used, so simple, so effective, and so versatile! It is a grammatical shining gem in a sea of shite! Sterling Johnson says it best in ‘English as a Second F*cking Language’: “Fuck” is a particularly impressive word, as it functions as almost all parts of speech. It can be a noun (“I don’t give a fuck.”), a verb (“We were fucking.”), an adjective (“Let me drive the fucking car!”), an adverb (“What are you fucking doing?”), and an interjection (“Fuck!”). It can be used to modify a sentence in both positive and negative context.”
How can you not love such a wondrous thing? I know, I know, there is a time and a place for such vulgarities… Such as emblazoned across my chest…
Besides adoring the simplicity of ‘fuck’, my heart lies with the more creative swearing, the way we like to add, switch up, and splice words together to make our point more… Pointy.
‘Shitty bollocks’ was a key phrase in our family, as was ‘bloody bollocking bastard’, never overly offensive, but still creative enough to do its job. A lot like the swearing one comes across in The Young Ones (no more than the occasional bastard, or shit) or Monty Python (a little more edgy, maybe an allusion to genitals and intercourse…). When things become a little more heated the ‘pissy flaps’ and ‘shitty titwank’ come out (because nobody wants either of those!)
I’d love to know how you approach creative swearing, if there are favourite words you wouldn’t do without- those that really help to release the pain or stress, or to express your frustration. It has been shown that expressing oneself through expletives during painful events can alleviate the pain somewhat, I think we should all be using this as a good old excuse to blow the metaphorical cobwebs out, as well as during those painful moments.
Thinking about it I remember saying, “fucking asshole” quite a lot to my partner while I gave birth… It definitely helped.