It’s true: if some people are right — we’ll come to how I think they’re largely misguided, silly, deluded or just plain wrong in a few paragraphs’ time — I may be about to single-handedly destroy any credibility and professionalism I may have built up as a freelance copywriter over the past few years; so writing this blog post now at a time of record economic hardship for people my age is a fine idea I think you’ll agree (notice the double use of May there — I’m not that confident about what I do and to be honest, I worry about anyone who is). How? By openly saying how I think swearing, cursing and cussing can be a good thing sometimes, of course. I am such a maverick, what can I say. And yes, for the sake of less hassle this is, I suppose, a kind of disclaimer: as if you hadn’t guessed by now, the following post you are about to read contains lots and lots of swear words, hopefully in what you’ll consider is the right context (unless I’m trying to make a point of using them in the wrong context, but don’t worry, I’ll warn you just so that if your mother-in-law is reading this and she’s a pain, she’ll not be led into doom intentionally, although you may wish I had in some cases, no doubt). This post contains even the really bad swear words which some people have multiple aneurysms over, it’s true! So don’t waste your time writing to me to complain about all the swearing and bad language, and how you thought I was better than that, etc, because you’ll wake up one day and realise you’ve been a silly boy or girl (or you won’t. Won’t realise you’ve been a fool, I mean. I wouldn’t wish anyone not to wake up — that’s just cruel. It’s not in my nature).
When I’m not getting existential, or worrying about how far gone this planet is, or what might happen if Mitt Romney gets into power — believe it or not but it’s a very real possibility right now — I’m a simple man: I like it when it rains very, very hard and I am not in it – especially when I am not in it. I like finding long-forgotten money in pockets – I don’t know why but the scrunched-up nature of five-pound-notes makes them all the more compelling. I like books, theatre and films which don’t hold back, for the right reasons — I prefer to stay away from shit ones, although some might argue that point after I bought both a Jaws box-set without the original Jaws in, and The Descent 2 because it was part of a box-set, in the same year. And sometimes, purely for the fun of it, and because it’s allowed, and because we live in a country that is actually quite good in numerous ways that we keep conveniently forgetting while the rest of the planet tears itself to pieces, I like swearing. I’m not ashamed to admit it, and I don’t think you should be either.
People have warned me about writing things like this. Intelligent people. People who may have a point. People with degrees (silence…joke!). They’ve actually told me that I’m not supposed to say I like swearing or advocate its usage, as this could be a bad decision that will come to haunt me in years or even months time (I’ll let you know). These people, who will remain nameless — mainly because I am hopeless with remembering names, which is lucky for them — have explained to me on several occasions that writing about things like this is a bad/risky idea, for several reasons which I have examined and come to the conclusion are actually quite valid. Such as what I’ve basically been saying, which is more or less that:
1: Swearing makes you look un-professional.
2: Swearing gives the wrong impression and the same thing can be said with better, more intelligently thought-out words.
I say bullshit, that’s not always the case. So now I’m breaking all the rules and I feel like Ross Kemp from Ross Kemp On Gangs in those really risky moments when he says “I think I’m being rumbled…it’s time to go…”. My opinion is this: in the right circumstances, swearing can be really fucking great, and I see absolutely no reason to stop doing it any time soon. Unless I get no work as a copywriter ever again, in which case I might tone it down a bit.
And anyway, me being me, why would I? I’m on a strict no-chocolate-no-cake diet for the next 5 months, you know, and thanks to plain bad luck I also have a condition which means I’m banned from drinking alcohol (I’m not an alcoholic — my body just can’t process it so it poisons me, honest). Sometimes, swearing and telling myself that cake and chocolate doesn’t really exist are the only things that get me through the day.
Who started the argument that swearing in films, theatre and literature is morally wrong? I don’t know, but they were probably religious. But let’s not get bogged down in the religion debate — we’d be here all day. Instead, let’s clamber out of that potential quagmire and into the relative safety of how swearing can be positive (safe while I’m writing this blog post, at least).
Not only is swearing immensely pleasurable to do – in the right circumstances, and within the appropriate context – but it is also an extremely important and historic art-form which has been practiced by many ancient civilizations and perfected by northerners and criminals and Ray Winstone. Go back through the ages and you’ll find all kinds of people from all kinds of classes have enjoyed the rebel-taboo of swearing, purely for swearing’s sake. My teachers at school said swearing wasn’t big or smart or clever but what the fuck did they know? They were wrong, of course, and probably lying just to conform to school rules, because when used properly, swearing is an absolutely essential addition to whatever you are doing. I believe it’s a fact when I say that without swearing, the world would be a dimmer and far less exciting place. It might also mean a world filled with even more horrendous non-stop violence, which is basically unthinkable if you live in a world where Mitt Romney is already imaginary president. I mean…can you actually imagine what someone might be driven to do if they couldn’t vent themselves with a few awful words? You probably wouldn’t even make it to the bus-stop. New parents with toddlers who carelessly left their Lego on the stairs the night before likely wouldn’t even make it to the kitchen without killing one another…
But there are exceptions. It’s not cool, for example, to sit on a bus with your friend and swear loudly in the company of mothers, children and people who you do not know and may not want to hear those kinds of things while going through a divorce, or pondering what the hell they’re going to do with themselves until their new iphone 5 arrives in the post. It’s also not cool to swear for the sake of it in a way which makes no sense whatsoever, or to do it just to impress others with how vulgar you can be when your talents lie elsewhere – choose your words carefully, unless you’re in a vulgar-words competition for fifty-thousand-pounds and you really need the money after blowing it all on hard drugs, in which case go fucking mental. In some cases, I’ll admit it: swearing is the worst thing in the world and serves no purpose other than to anger and frustrate those around you. As you won’t be surprised to hear, I never swear to my copywriting clients or to anyone I don’t know reasonably well. If they swear at me in an email then I might swear back in jest, though, just to prove that I can be on their level and also a professional. On rare occasions, this green-light of approval is just what I need and a welcome break from having to phrase things in ways which require a lot of mental energy. Sometimes it’s just a hell of a lot easier to say Fuck.
Then there are times when only swearing will do and that’s a fact.
I can remember the period of time when, as a child, I learned that my father swore just like everyone else did. Up until that time – I was around eight or nine, I think – the Shit word, whenever so much as mouthed, created a vortex of angry faces and severe punishment for the perpertrator. Anyone conjuring this sickening demon was immediately told-off and made to promise that it would never again be mentioned in the house or anywhere. Then, one day, I was at one end of the room and my dad and granddad were at the other and I suppose they thought I wasn’t listening. “…The fucking thing doesn’t work!” my dad was saying to granddad, as they attempted – feebly and without any logic, I think it’s fair to say – to fix the bastard curtain-rail, despite the case that even a child could see they had not a bloody clue what the hell they were doing. Fucking was a new one and I liked it very much – it sounded great: much more powerful than Shit, and about a billion-times more potent than the much less impressive Crap. After Fucking, Crap just sounded pointless and shit. I was so enamored that I made a point of using it the following day at school not once but twice in the company of adults. It was so potent that it made one of my teachers — nobody liked her as she taught my worst enemy, numbers, and she was said to have the worst Poo breath imaginable — smile in a way that made me think she had just miraculously broken her back.
Fortunately, I do remember some things.
So there we were, rescued by Fucking. A breath of fresh-air which us insult-hungry kids all sorely needed.
Not that I knew what the mysterious Fucking meant…
I had not the slightest clue what Fucking was about until a boy from the year above told me. It sounded horrific and bizarre…two people body-parting each other — that was the term he used and as you can see it has stood the test of time very well — in the mysterious adult intercourse way, again and again until a weird kind of intimate pleasure was achieved (so they said — it sounded ridiculous, too ridiculous for adults, even). As a nine-year-old with much better things to do, the Fucking made me feel quite sick.
For a long time after that I knew swearing to be fun, hideous, vulgar and without any sense — but still really fun. It was the bad thing adults did…the thing people did when they had nothing good to say. But still lots of fun! So when I arrived at secondary school and found that everyone was doing it, some quite artfully, really giving it their all and being inventive, it really messed with the logic that both my parents and society had instilled in me. Suddenly here I was: surrounded by swearers, and lots of new words which were brutal. Fucking was still definitely up there as one of the firm favourites of the time, but there was a new word around and it was CUNT.
People said CUNT not cunt, I found. If they did say cunt then their face would kind of stretch and pull the word out of its filthy shell, until it was in capital letters and everyone around was either grim-faced (they didn’t know it) or smiling (they knew it and had said it and loved it).
After CUNT, the world just wasn’t the same again. Fucking, Shit and CUNT was the mandatory vocabulary for all from that point on. Aside from being bullied like crazy and still being cataclysmically awful at maths, life was really good.
Let’s do an experiment. Go outside, where there are adults, and shout “Cunt!” Go on, if you can and if your boss isn’t looking, I dare you. Chances are, unless a parade of school-children were walking by or you were stupid/spontaneous enough to not check for police — or those ones who look like police but are actually Community Support Officers, or something — nobody really noticed. Whatever the case, they’ll have probably assumed the worst, anyway: they either thought something terrible happened to you or they thought you were Dom Joly doing a new series (in some cities which are more switched-on about mental illness, they may even ask you if you are OK. Unless you’re in London, in which case that’s not likely to happen).
Why didn’t anyone give a shit? Because most adults know that if someone shouts “Cunt!” in the street very loudly with total lack of inhibition, they are either happy, drunk, very broken mentally or on drugs. It’s 2012, right? The fact is, the world is still far away from achieving peace, people are more concerned about things they should and should not be concerned with, and swearing really isn’t that offensive any more, providing it’s done well. In fact, it’s part of modern human nature to swear. Far as I can see, it’s the people who don’t swear every now and again who look a bit weird. Or maybe not weird, but way too together to not have teleported here from some other much less stressful future time or dimension. If they did, lucky them but I’d still prefer to remain in this one — unless in theirs you can eat chocolate and cake and drink alcohol and nothing happens to you…although that might not be ideal for everyone, mainly alcoholics.
As for the argument that swearing is something people do when they have nothing better to do, well, I think that’s a load of bollocks. 1) busy people with no time seem to swear more than anyone else, 2) plenty of smart people swear and enjoy doing so and 3) — and this is a BIG 3 — no succession of words can deliver the same powerful blow that a carefully placed Fuck or Cunt can. Seriously, just ask Ray Winstone. You may not like the words, you may not want to hear them, you may feel like someone’s just dropped a snake in your naked lap, but try arguing that point next time you stand on a nail. I think we both know that you’re not going to win.
Aside from all this, swearing, whether you like doing or hearing it or not, is an intrinsic part of everyday life for most of the thinking population — it’s just many of them might only swear while on their own attempting to configure an irritating Powerpoint presentation or cook a boiled-egg for the first time and keep the yoke all runny (how I’m jealous of those who go for a non-runny yoke…). Australian outback tribes may not swear as we know it, seemingly setting a good example, but I’m willing to bet that over the past few thousand years they’ve invented their own unique ways of getting the same point across. Books, theatre and movies are a reflection of life, and so it makes sense that they should be accurate — that’s what I’m trying to say. And don’t try telling me that you can replace swear words with lesser equivalents, because unless you’re Nabokov — and even he liked a swear or three — that’s a load of bollocks, too. Come on now, even Nigella swears!
Equally bollocks is the notion that spelling swear words in print-form with asterisks for the missing characters is somehow better and more appropriate than printing the entire word without. To me, calling a character in a novel a f**king c**t couldn’t be more offensive. Not only is this ruining the flow and power of the words, but it’s making me question why the hell the asterisks are even there, seeing as it’s obvious what I’m reading and would only cause a child to ask even more unsettling questions if he or she did come across it (which would be your fault for leaving the book open, if that was where they got it from). I then laugh or get frustrated at wondering why the asterisks were even used and this ruins everything. By that time, I’m pissed-off with the author and fed-up with the publisher for being such a bloody pussy.
Don’t like swearing? Then read books and go to theatre shows and watch films which aren’t accurate portrayals of real-life situations. Miss out on a whole world of rich, diverse language, simply because you felt a little awkward. Just don’t complain when you realise something huge is missing and you’ve just wasted 5 hours of your life.
After reading all that, I suppose it’s possible you might think I’m always swearing. That I can’t go ten minutes without shouting my mouth off. Except like many advocates of a damn good swear session, that’s not the truth. I like a good swear as much as the next man, but I’m much more selective than I used to be at 14, you know, and I also go easy on it on Facebook and other social media sites, as I’m well aware that in many situations it is simply unecessary. I also don’t drink alcohol ever, as I said, which limits my Friday-night-swearing moments dangerously enough that if I’m the company of northerners, they are in complete disgust.