I grew up in a
Mother is a lady of delicate sensibilities, who dare
not utter a vulgar word, nary even a sugar!
nor a damn!
Father is the extreme antithesis. Expletives form the bulk of his working
vocabulary. It’s quite a spectacular display, to hear him swear,
cuss and curse in a foul-mouthed rage. People often comment that he “swears
I’ve often heard people reproach themselves for
swearing. Like over-indulging in alcohol, cigarettes and chocolate,
swearing is categorised as a ‘bad habit’…
“Ooh, I swear too much! I want to cut down a little bit!”
Perhaps, when they have been ‘good’ and abstained for some
time, they may allow themselves the occasional fuck.
Think about it, and answer me this…what is ‘bad’
about swearing? Is it immoral? Unethical? Unladylike? Ungentlemanlike?
Unseemly? Uncouth? Unrefined? Smutty?
The only reason for this linguistic tarring and
feathering is that expletives can
be offensive. But why are they
offensive? Do they invoke tawdry, lustful and scatological images? Are
Let’s dispel some myths about swearing…
MYTH: Swear words are bad words.
Is love a good
word and prick a bad
word? No…these are arbitrary labels for concepts. Rape, torture, abuse, murder and genocide are incidental words that label bad, ‘ugly’
behaviour, they are not bad in and of
themselves. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.
Or by my lurid corruption, “An arse by
any other name…”
Words don’t have an intrinsic, magical meaning.
We infuse meaning into language. If society agreed to
it, lemon curd tart could
become a deeply offensive expletive.
MYTH: People resort to swearing when they are
losing an argument.
What if both parties are swearing?
Swearing during an argument might indicate frustration
(fuck you!), emphasis (It’s fucking true!) or
contempt (you fuckwit!)…but in
itself doesn’t indicate power or control.
People resort to swearing in an argument because they’re
sick of trying logic and rationale with the person who uses this myth as
MYTH: Swearing shows a poor ability to express
In contrast, swearing is very expressive. On the
surface, the directive fuck off! denotes the same as go away! but the connotations of the
former as far more telling and descriptive.
Does this accuser expect poetry and Wildean wit every time you open your fucking mouth?
Nah…people who use this criticism are just pissed off because you
swore at them and want to seek a higher moral ground. These are people
who are pompous and prejudiced about language, and admire things like
In fact, mastering the use of expletives in a
non-native language indicates proficiency. Phrases like what the fuck? or
who gives a fuck? aren’t literal, and certainly aren’t part
of the English for Business syllabus.
To swear or not to swear is not an indicator of
intelligence, creativity, morals, ethics or beliefs. It’s the way
you choose to speak, or how not to speak.
The opinion that ‘swearing is bad’ is a
moral commentary. Swearing is often taboo, and this is a social
convention. I don’t advocate that you offend those you
actually give a shit about. However, what is considered to be offensive
changes over time and space, so don’t
castigate or censor yourself for indulging in a good shit every now and then.
One thing’s for sure…my Mum will never