Don’t be too chicken about foul language
To profane is human, and occasionally divine. Swearing can be functional, and powerful. In the right hands a good swear word can be wildly entertaining, shocking, surprising. Offensive. Funny. Liberating.
There’s a shedload of stories in this country and overseas about swearing at the moment, sparking kerfuffles over what language is acceptable, and what goes too far. Can there ever be a consensus?
2Day FM, employer and enabler of Kyle Sandilands’ rabid sewer mouth, has banned nine words as part of its attempt to impose a “kids in the car” decency test on radio announcers. On the blacklist are: “F . .k, f . .ker, motherf . .ker, arsehole, bullshit, shit, f . .kwit, c . .t and cock.”
So, according to The Australian’s report, they banned ‘arsehole’, but didn’t specifically prohibit the use of the term ‘fat slag’, or ‘fat bitter thing’ – terms he used to describe a journalist before talking about her ‘titties’ and threatening to hunt her down. They must be optimistic that that sort of guff is covered off by the “kids in the car test”.
Meanwhile, police are still hunting the ‘villain’ who posted the video of a sweary then-Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd on the internet. Julia Gillard and her staff have been cleared of involvement, but the finger is now being pointed at a NSW Labor party operative.
The video, in which a frustrated Mr Rudd drops the f bomb several times, surfaced just days before he challenged Prime Minister Julia Gillard for the leadership.
In the US, several politicians have reportedly let loose with vulgarities, prompting people to speculate about the downfall of society.
Some of the prissier elements may see it as a dark sign; others as a way to connect with the common people. Certainly here some people would identify more closely with Mr Rudd’s blue language than his cackhanded phrase ‘fair shake of the sauce bottle’.
Of the many things people call me, ‘pottymouth’ is probably the most deserved.
I remember standing on a table as a child and proudly reciting poobumweelavatory over and over again. Once, at a very civilised luncheon, I was talking about an old boss for whom I had a very specific nickname, and I spoke that unpublishable name into one of those falls of silence. Children were present. Hopefullly they weren’t fast learners.
Swearing may not be pretty, but it feels good. That’s not just a subjective excuse for my own propensity to profanity – there’s some evidence that swearing can help you deal with pain, and that it can make your pulse spike, your hair rise. It can also be a sign that you are relaxed – a gentle cursing amongst friends indicates intimacy, being comfortable.
It can be creative and cathartic. Sometimes, only the f word will do.
For almost as long as humans have spoken, we have had taboo words. Every culture develops them – even the words and obscene gestures of someone with Tourette Syndrome are specific to their context. While the tics and other symptoms may be the same here as in North Korea, the ‘coprolalia’, or involuntary swearing that some Touretters suffer, is obviously rooted in culture.
Fair Work Australia recently found that swearing in the workplace was not a sackable offence if cursing was a regular occurrence.
Words are just an arrangement of letters, and it’s the intent behind them that matters. We imbue them with power.
So people can waste their time worrying about Mr Rudd’s temper tantrums, or see a governor’s curse as a sign of degrading standards.
Personally, I’d prefer it if people would save their outrage and energy to tell vile people like Kyle, who aim to wound, to get to the end of the far queue.
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