Oscar Wilde, the famous 19th century Irish poet once said: “The expletive is the refuge of the semi-literate”.  In other words; swearing is for dumb heads.

Swearing? You've got to be effing kidding.

Well, all I can say is, if the ‘refuge’ was an actual place, it would be packed to the rafters—considering the number of foul-mouthed ‘dumb heads’ around these days.  And yes, okay, I might be among their number too at times, I admit.  (Before anyone starts calling me a hypocrite because they’ve heard me say naughty words).  Yes, we 21st century folk certainly say lots of words that would’ve made our Victorian ancestors’ hair curl.

As a kid, while I soon became aware of most swear words (mainly thanks to the neighbourhood kids who were clearly more world-wise than me) I would never dare use them.  And, even though my Dad, an ex-army pugilist and a Scotsman to boot (apparently a very bad combo for swear-ability) was always pretty careful not to swear around us kids or in public, I still, in fact, heard my first F Bomb from his own lips.

Wrestling angrily with some recalcitrant piece of machinery in our shed one summer’s day, he must have mistakenly either thought the tin shed walls were soundproof or that nobody was home.  Neither was the case, but I didn’t dare mention it to Mum who, for her part, was definitely not a swearer.  In fact, the worst thing I ever heard Mum say was when she called our kelpie “Face Ache” as he persistently tried to herd her around the clothesline.  I thought this was hilarious.

In her later years, after a severe stroke had sadly stolen much of her capacity to remember words, she adopted the unlikely (for her) “Bugger Awful!” when things displeased her.  Coming from my Mum it was priceless. 

Then much later on, came my own parenting days.  We were always careful to keep it pretty nice around the kids and I used to warn them thus (and forgive me Oscar): “Only dumb people swear because they are too stupid to know any better words.”

The kids got it (I guess no-one likes to be labelled as stupid) and pretty much refrained from using bad language.  Well, aside from the time I heard one of them screaming “‘Eff’ Off!” from a tree house, as his brothers pelted him with rocks.  He later pleaded provocation (when Mum threatened the mustard) and fortunately got off on a good behaviour bond—and two nights without Inspector Gadget.

My general swearing advice to the kids was this. I didn’t actually care what they said when they were some place where no-one could hear them.  BUT (and this was my big stipulation) if there was even just one person within earshot who might be offended, they were not to do it. 

I’m not sure how effective this advice actually was but the fact that the kids spent quite a lot of time down at the river suggests maybe they had more words to get off their chests than I realised.  If only the gum trees could tell the tale!

But anyway, a while ago I was out with my sons (now young men) when one of them accidentally dropped an Effy.  Before I’d even raised an eyebrow in protest, he quickly apologised to me.  My heart swelled with maternal pride that my child was so considerate, until his brother chimed in that what he’d said was nothing compared to what he usually says!  Hmph!  I consoled myself that at least he usually respected me enough to zip it in my presence.

More recently, the morning after a local outdoor rock concert, I commented to Number Three Son that I wished the band hadn’t sworn so much as the microphones were carrying the offensive words all over town.

Number Three just rolled his eyes and said, “Will you just get over this swearing thing, Mum? It’s just part of life today.  Everyone does it, but you make such a big deal out of it!”

“So you don’t have a problem with it then?” I asked him.  He nodded emphatically.

“You’re okay with people swearing anytime and any place, are you?” I continued.  He nodded again and rolled his eyes at his father for added effect.

“Well, okay then,” I said sweetly, “How about *Effing* getting your own *Effing* breakfast then?”

Number Three nearly fell off his chair!  His face registered shock and horror; evidently he had no idea that his preachy-no-swear mother was capable of letting rip with some of the big guns. He was lost for words.

The spouse and I fell about laughing.

Isn’t it funny how something’s okay until your mother does it? 

I guess it’s all a matter of perspective, as Number Three discovered that morning. Sorry Oscar, but when it comes to teaching lessons, we 21st Century mums have to work with what we’ve got.

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    • ibast says:

      08:54am | 15/07/10

      I agree with Wilde when it comes to prolific swearing.  Nothing demonstrates ignorance or stupidity more than the excessive use of foul language.  Despite this people that have a problem with the odd swear word, to the point of being aghast, give me the shits.

      It’s just an arrangement of letters.  A series of sounds.  Why should one word of something be taboo, but another word for the same thing be acceptable?

      Despite this stupidity we continue to proliferate this view in our own children.  Why?  I just don’t get it.  In my view the desensitisation of society to profanity is a healthy thing.

    • Brutus Balan says:

      12:23pm | 15/07/10

      The word ‘swearing’ simply means expressing frustrations with unrelated words usually of the sexual nature.  It is to sound as crude and rude as possible.  How is that a healthy thing of a sound mind?  Wilde was not about ‘prolific’ swearing but ‘swearing’, period, to express a frustration.  If words are a series of sounds, they become words that express meaning.  Words in context of the meaning is healthy but used to voice a base vile nature is regenerative character.

    • Brutus Balan says:

      09:25am | 15/07/10

      It is because ‘everybody’ swears that makes ‘everybody’ swear. One need not be stupid like the rest of the mindless mob. How is frustration eased with sexual words referring to sexual acts?  21st C or not it was stupid then and it is stupid now.  It is not a matter of perspective of life but is it needful vocabulary in human expression of feeling, no matter how trying?

    • DJ says:

      01:26pm | 15/07/10

      I don’t know when I am furious and frustrated the only thing that calms me down is venting and dropping bombs, it vents the spleen and releases pent up energy and really as Billy Connely once said the “go away” really sounds wussy compared to “F*&K OFF” to get someone to stop bothering you lol

      I swear around my kids, they have in perfect accord when I am driving and someone cuts me off said at the same time as me in the same tone FFS (actual words not text speak) it was a crack up. They are allowed to swear as long as they are not swearing at someone, if they drop something on their foot or are provoked by a sibling then I am not going to wash their mouths out with soap for saying something I myself do

    • Colorful says:

      09:46am | 15/07/10

      Your comment:I swear a lot with the F-bomb out of frustration at some dumb situation usually involving driving and parking. This can be around my daughter, no doubt she is used to it. The important thing is I don’t swear at my daughter or other family members.

    • Nick says:

      10:02am | 15/07/10

      The rule I’ve taught my sons (currently 12, 10 & 8 years old) is that it’s OK to swear, provided a) it enhances what you’re saying and it’s not just for the sake of it; b) your mother, grandmothers and/or teachers aren’t within earshot.

    • Traxster says:

      10:32am | 15/07/10

      And do you remember a long time ago when nobody,but nobody,in the movies or on TV ever dropped the ‘F’ word ?........
      I was watching something about American gangsters the other evening and every other word was an expletive even including the dreaded ‘c’ word !!!!
      If I remember correctly,Jane Fonda in the movie ‘Klute’ was the first person I ever heard say the ‘f’ word in a movie…........
      I was so shattered I couldn’t follow the rest of the movie,I had to watch it again.

    • Arnold Layne says:

      11:09am | 15/07/10

      I just listened to the Mel Gibson phone calls this morning and he was swearing so much that he’d sometimes move on the the next “F” without having anything to say after it.  It got me to thinking about the use of profanity so this piece was rather timely.  My son (10) is a pretty good kid who has told me that most kids swear, he plays competition sport as well as goes to school so I guess he has plenty of exposure to it.  My approach has been fairly similar to Catherine’s I guess.  I’ve explained “footy talk” to him, and how he thinks his Mum or his Grandmother would feel if they heard it.  I’ve also used a paraphrase of the Oscar Wilde quote, and he seems to get it.  Importantly he has a 5 year old sister so he has a ready made reminder at home about use of language. 

      Personally I use a bit of bad language, but it’s generally among close friends or when I’m driving alone, as I have to keep a lid on it when the kids are in the car.  I’ve found that it’s far more fun, and more entertaining for those around, to use alternate profanities when at the footy.  One match my mates and I might decide to use the names of Formula One drivers or Australian TV legends (for example) if something goes against us.  Next time you need to swear, try Alain Prost or Simon Baker Denny instead.  You’ll get strange looks or a laugh, or both, but you might feel better and a bit cleverer too. 

      I remember a couple of years ago when we were getting ready for dinner and my daughter said to me “Dad, a girl at day care said a very naughty word today.  Do you want to know what she said?”  My heart sank at the thought of her loss of innocence at such a tender age but I thought I needed to know so I could let the child care centre know so I composed myself and asked her what she said.  My daughter looked back at me and said “She said ‘shut up’”

    • iansand says:

      12:13pm | 15/07/10

      In one of Gore Vidal’s novellas - it may have been Myra Breckinridge or Myron - he used the names of US Supreme Court Justices in the same way.  Most diverting.

    • Rick says:

      11:09am | 15/07/10

      There’s something wrong with your article - and that is, given your allegory to Wilde, it assumes that you have an expectation of your sons to be above semi-literate level. Hence, your conclusion that now (21st C) it is ok for everyone to do it, and no alternative conclusion that they’re just a trio of, well, semi-literates.

      ibast, it is not just an arrangement of words - it has a meaning, an intention, a purpose, connotation… what you propose, is as nonsense as saying that anyone should use arrangements or letters arbitrarily e.g. describing the colour of the sky with the arrangement r-e-d, or why not ;lasdfjk - see the purpose? (in this case, communication). If I think you are smart, it doesn’t mean you are a composition of an s, an m, an a, an r and a t. And a rearrangement of letters would leave you a bit stunned, if a told you I think you’re trams.

      The other issue is the emotive connotation that the communicative process has. Years ago, you could find in books the clinical description of stupidity, idiocy and imbecility. What happened? we started calling each other that with the implicit connotation of verbally hurting - therefore feelings, emotions, opinion, wish to communicate is involved, rather than just an arrangement of letters. What happened next? We changed it to Mental retardation. Next? calling ourselves “retarded”. Then, Intellectually disabled. now, disabled cal already be derogatory. What comes next? cognitively challenged? And how long does that one last? I know this might sound like an argument in favour of your position, but it’s not, it’s actually contrary due to being in favour of the meaning.
      Lastly, “desensitization of society to profanity” would mean everyone doing whatever one wants, and that would interfere with other’s rights and I’m sure you would be swallowing your words once your private property or physical integrity is put at risk just because someone else ‘feels like’ letting their impulses go.

      @Colorful, your daughter must be so proud of you. You’re such an example!

    • ibast says:

      12:27pm | 15/07/10

      Rearranging letters to form a different word is the nonsense.  My point was that two words of the same meaning have different effects on the listener for no good reason.

      Why is it, for example, that Vagina is an acceptable noun but C**t isn’t?  The only reason is because your upbringing told you it was.  Calling someone a Vagina would be met with bemusement instead of offense.

      If we stopped imprinting this silly belief on our children then swearing becomes obsolete.

      DD is right in that we do it for effect, but the only reason it has any effect is because we have been programmed by our upbringing that it should have an effect.

    • Brutus Balan says:

      12:54pm | 15/07/10

      @ibast, What you are saying is that it is alright for you and your children to hurt other’s feeling with ‘swearing’ words to hurt, with maximum effect.  Is this the kind of world you want to live in or will you and your children become agents for change for the better.  You are not ‘programmed’ by your upbringing but you willfully chose to be led by others to follow their mouth trap.  The only sensible thing in your comment so far is this, “If we stopped imprinting this silly belief on our children then swearing becomes obsolete.”  If error is perpetuated, error worsens over time.

    • ibast says:

      01:43pm | 15/07/10

      @Brutus Balan, Thus far you have interpreted Wilde for me and now you are interpreting me.  Thanks for that.

      And no, I am not saying it is alright for my children to hurt others feelings by swearing.

      If you choose to be offended by a sound that is your choice.  It is not mine and you should not inflict your choices on others.  I do not find swearing offensive, because I chose to question my education in this regard.

      Just because someone lacks the intelligence, education or imagination to produce anything but an expletive, does not mean that someone who uses an expletive, lacks intelligence, education or imagination.

    • Rick says:

      02:25pm | 15/07/10

      ibast,

      one agreement, one disagreement:

      The quality of the adjective is not given by upbringing necessarily. Hence my previous attempt to explain with the example of stupid/idiot/imbecile - those were words that originated as (pseudo)clincial descriptions for individuals with specific scores on the IQ scale. What made those words pejorative was our use of it, and not upbringing. In other words, we will always find a way of insulting others even if we try to get rid of the current repertoire.

      Context is another important point. Some women sometimes call each other, in a friendly way, “bitch”. This is an example of your desensitization theory. however, those same girls can use that word as offensive or take it like that in a different (non-friendly, aggressive) context, proving your theory wrong.

      Your point about ‘not choosing to be offended’ is a good point, but a different one. It’s about what do you make of what is said to you (i.e. don’t care) as opposed to the meaning/context of the words being said to you. You can be offended without the need for coarse language. But again, coarse language is intended to substitute those same words which would offend you.

    • ibast says:

      03:39pm | 15/07/10

      Rick, you are correct about us always being able to find ways to insult each other.  I believe, however, what we are talking about here is a specific list of blacklisted words that apparently cause some offense due solely to their utterance.  Your example may be rude, but they are not (I believe) the subject of conjecture here.

      As for the Bitch example.  This is an interesting point but I don’t believe it disproves my point.  The only reason it is offensive when used in an offensive manner is because we were brought up to believe it can be offensive.  If our parents brought us up to believe bitch was just the name of a female dog, then we would not find it at all offensive.  It is only after they scold and punish us for using it in a particular manner does it becomes a profanity.  So I guess in this particular example the context does matter (and I am sure there are many others), but it is still a taught belief that makes it offensive.

    • Brutus Balan says:

      04:49pm | 15/07/10

      @ibast,

      All words and comments are interpreted, rightly or wrongly by you and me, but interpreted nonetheless.  Words are not just mere combination of sounds but they carry meaning and purpose and are interpreted. 

      As Rick says, the word ‘bitch’ is used in a friendly reference and also as a swearing derogative word.  If women do not mind being called a ‘bitch’ it is up to the individual and so the word ‘bugger’  in reference to men. But it is another thing when used to demean another. 

      I do agree that those who use expletives are not all lacking ‘intelligence, education or imagination’ but what has that to do with stupidity. One can be offended without expletives but it is different thing to offend another with deliberate coarse language.  Of course it is your choice but the question here, is it needful and does it promote goodwill and a better society. 

      You say,’ And no, I am not saying it is alright for my children to hurt others feelings by swearing.” and yet at the same time also say, ‘I do not find swearing offensive…’  Where is the consistency?

    • Sherekahn says:

      11:15am | 15/07/10

      When I was at school in England a very old maths teacher on hearing one of us say “bloody,”  declared it was from an old Catholic curse of “by our lady!”
      As many of us were not Catholic or perhaps anything, it didn’t catch on.
      As a ‘grumpy old man’ I tend to be a crude swearer at home but not in public.  I am not pleased with it and my wife is very displeased.
      American films on TV (not often watched by me) are, I believe, the culprit.
      There is one word I never have used, you can find it criticized in Germaine Greere’s book, The female eunuch.

      It is a strange conflict that I don’t like hearing any swearing in public but lapse into it at home!
      Do I view it as a release?

    • Trjn says:

      03:59pm | 15/07/10

      American films have some of the lowest levels of swearing comparative to films made in other Western countries. Their ratings system discourages it and will essentially force films into a very high category for saying certain words more than a certain amount of times, whereas over here the context and frequency of the words used is what is considered when classifying the film.

      Similarly with television, any American production made on a network regulated by the FCC (which is practically all of them) uses absolutely minimal levels of obscenity, often avoiding it outright even when it would be perfectly acceptable or expected in the situation presented.

      Personally, I blame the apparent increase in profanity on people coming to their senses and realising that swear words are just words.

    • Jenni says:

      11:22am | 15/07/10

      I was raised in a mining town, worked in a truckstop for many years, and now work in a prison - none of which help with keeping my language clean wink Having said that, I recently decided to have a go at cleaning up my potty mouth and was horrified to find that I had actually forgotten how to express myself in a bad situation *without* swearing. It really hit home to me just how bad my swearing had gotten.

      I don’t think the odd swear here-and-there is really harmful and offensive, but some people (and I was one of them) use those words far too readily and out of proportion to the conversation/event.

      I am currently 5 weeks into my “potty mouth challenge” - I have a swear jar set up and at the end of each week I donate the proceeds to charity. I chose to donate it to the Tourettes Research Foundation, for obvious reasons wink and have made it public to my friends so that they can join in if they like. There’s a link if anybody on Punch feels like joining the challenge LOL

      http://www.crowdrise.com/swearjar/fundraiser/jaimes

    • Sherekahn says:

      12:38pm | 15/07/10

      Jenni!  “Gotten? and LOL? are as bad as swearing to some of us oldies!

    • Peter says:

      03:40pm | 15/07/10

      A swear jar who’s money is donated to the Tourettes foundation. That’s the funniest thing ive ever heard.. Great idea!!

    • Reg says:

      09:20am | 16/07/10

      Just the place to mention the episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where the French chef has Tourette’s syndrome and Larry is upset that, in spite of his Frenchness, he insists on swearing in English.

      When the obvious climax is reached, the tension is relieved by every-one in the restaurant taking turns swearing back at the chef using swear words that matched their perceived status.

    • Jenni says:

      02:27pm | 16/07/10

      Sherekahn - far be it from me to educate my elders, but “gotten” is a perfectly valid english language word, and I have used it in its correct context, as in the “past participle of get”. Perhaps *you* might like to expand your vocabulary? Also, if LOL offends you to the same level as the “c” word or the “f” bomb, then you do indeed have some very strange notions of what is offensive. One is an expression of amusement, the others are (sometimes) words directed in anger or hatred, and othertimes just frustration. I truly don’t see the comparison you are trying to make.

      Peter - glad you like the idea - now go and donate something :p

    • Rachel says:

      10:13pm | 17/07/10

      Nobody in England uses the word gotten. Is this an Australian or an American thing?

    • DD Ball says:

      11:23am | 15/07/10

      Swearing, as with any behavior, serves a purpose or people won’t do it. Sometimes people are raised to swear in their family. Others learn it from others.  But those that use it have benefits for doing so. Some view it as stress relief. Some use it to make themselves visible to others, and to separate themselves from others. Maybe everyone does it, but it doesn’t have to be regular, and it shouldn’t be done. I have seen detectives employing the filthiest of language having sprayed themselves with smells like tobacco, but their purpose was to make other swearers comfortable in their presence .. because the worst criminals in our society are comfortable among swears.

    • DJ says:

      01:32pm | 15/07/10

      ummm….are you implying that all swearers are criminals or like criminals? coz I don’t think there is legislation against swearing, you can even swear at cops if it’s in context

    • ibast says:

      02:36pm | 15/07/10

      DJ,  In NSW the “Offensive Language” offense still exists.  The measure is what a reasonable person would find offensive.  So it doesn’t matter if there is a Nun, or Billey Connelly is present.  It also seem apparent to me there is only one word that would definitely qualify under this offense, these day, and perhaps one other that could be argued.  All other words are simply no longer offensive to a reasonable person.  Thankfully it is an offense that is capable of adjusting with the times.  50 years ago the word Bugger, for example, would have qualified under this offense.  These days the term is used in jest.

    • DJ says:

      03:07pm | 15/07/10

      ibast, sorry but I would still swear in front of a nun, not at them (unless they were dawdling in front of me and there was no room to power walk around them) the only swear word I will not utter is the C one

    • ibast says:

      03:22pm | 15/07/10

      DJ, I’m in agreement on the swearing.  I was just letting you know a criminal offense does exist in NSW (at least).

    • DD Ball says:

      08:39pm | 15/07/10

      DJ, don’t mistake the active component of what I wrote. Criminals swear because it allows them to draw those in agreement with them closer to them, and pushes away those who don’t swear often, or who feel uncomfortable with swearing. It doesn’t make you a criminal, but criminals are comfortable with it. Some otherwise decent people swear. But in general, swearing is not good. It suggests loss of control. I wouldn’t want teachers to swear, or police.

    • DJ says:

      09:45am | 16/07/10

      DD I am sure all teachers swear and I know a lot of cops who swear also.

      But which is more offensive? is it all swearing or swearing at someone? when I drop something on my foot or walk into a wall that has been there for years I will curse mainly coz it hurt, when I drop something whether it breaks or not I curse, when traffic is not doing what I want it to I curse, I saw an accident this morning 3 cars looked like someone had tried to enter the main road from a side street in front of another car they apparently did swear, my response shit! in amazement (is that the correct spelling? spellcheck on computers has reduced my former spelling ability) do you find it in that context offensive?

      I do not swear at someone, I don’t call people names and use a swear word in front of it. I may swear in front of other people, I also use god and jesus as colourful swear words.

      so is swearing in general offensive or does it depend on the context? have you never sworn when you hurt yourself? I swore like a sailor on leave when I was giving birth

    • Ryan says:

      11:35am | 15/07/10

      The only thing swearing shows is your lack of class.

    • Reg says:

      02:51pm | 15/07/10

      Then you’ve never seen the most admirable Lewis Black make a point with his unrestrained swearing. His is the most classical use of swearing anyone could ever wish to be offended by.

      Lack of class can also be shown by a refusal to accept that such words only have the meanings you choose to give them. Schubert did not use musical expletives, Beethoven did.

    • Peter says:

      02:53pm | 15/07/10

      Hear hear!! And aparantly if you have some class and insist there should be no swearing on TV some dumb teenagers will come out and call you a dinorsaur and old fashioned, and TV execs with $$$ in their heads will back them up..

      Somehow American film culture is portaying swearing, rudeness and no manners as somehow being cool and they are getting away with it..

      The coolest bloke in history “The Fonz” never needed to degrade himself.. And if you want to watch a good joke with no swearing involved, just see the following link… Enjoy..

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZt7Pu2jc6Y

    • Ryan says:

      04:18pm | 15/07/10

      “Lack of class can also be shown by a refusal to accept that such words only have the meanings you choose to give them.” - Incorrect, please do attempt to try and show how refusal to accept swear words as “only having the meanings you choose to give them.” as being a lack of class.
      The English language and its very definition of what is and is not vulgar is quite specific. I think perhaps it is that complete lack of class in our average society that believe vulgar language to be common is just that,  common!
      Class is shown by people who uphold values in society, the very people that add to the cohesive progress of our civilisation. Vulgar language is NOT accepted as valuable to society and hence the use of such would place you in the peasant category of society.
      Let me make one thing 100% clear, class is not under any circumstances defined by money.

    • Peter says:

      04:26pm | 15/07/10

      Agree Ryan, no amount of money can buy you class…

    • Reg says:

      11:18pm | 15/07/10

      Oh far-cough Ryan. A refusal to accept, displays is a blind pig-headed disposition. You must handle what people choose to throw at you. A certain Maltese guy of my youth used the most dreadful swear words in the days when anything above bugger was regarded as just too much. He had learned it as a normal part of Australian language.  To treat him as crap, as you suggest, would have been to treat him unjust.

      Now tell me Ryan, how do you react to people with Tourette’s syndrome?  Vulgar language is not accepted as valuable by YOUR society but it seems your society has it’s head up it’s arse.

      I don’t know where money comes into it but Oscar Wilde was class in anyone’s language.  Just that he was years ahead of the rest and did the usual thing by accommodated the mores’ of the day. The same outdated ones you are still embroiled in Ryan.

    • Ryan says:

      04:52pm | 16/07/10

      @Reg: “A refusal to accept, displays is a blind pig-headed disposition.”, I agree on your statement however this does not constitute a “lack of class” especially when considering the context of the refusal to accept.

      “Now tell me Ryan, how do you react to people with Tourette’s syndrome? ” with love, care and understanding, this is one of those many “outdated” qualities of class to which you refer.

    • Reg says:

      08:02am | 17/07/10

      Then call it a lack of sophistication Ryan. An inability to rise above and ignore that which you feel you are duty bound to find revolting.

      I don’t find your revulsion revolting nor should you demand conformity of language to your pre-conceptions, what-ever their origin.

      Perhaps you would advise all teenagers to become card-carrying Tourette’s practitioners as defense against over-enthusiastic bouncers, male and female. “It’s alright mate I can swear, got a card for that.” ... and Ryan is watching with sympathy and understanding because he is so broadminded.

    • Ryan says:

      05:53pm | 20/07/10

      @Reg: Are you serious? Did you read your last post at all?
      You are honestly trying to convince me that swearing is “sophistication”?
      The rest of your post referring to all teenagers and the reference to “card-carrying Tourette’s practitioners” is just blatantly offensive to Tourette’s sufferers and as such I am done with this conversation, I really don’t think that this is a condition you should be making light of. Quite honestly, you should be ashamed of yourself, unfortunately I fear that the very subject at hand is more than possibly the reason you are not.

    • bella starkey says:

      11:35am | 15/07/10

      Swearing isn’t the purvey of the stupid because it is offensive. Rather because it is lazy. Four letter words have such wide applications and such expressive value that their use encourages people to abandon more cerebral expressions for the sake of something all encompassing and less arduous to say.

      The offensiveness of these expressions is something of an anachronism. It is only our innate shame in society which forces us to be offended by the concepts intercourse, excrement and genitalia. However, these words have moved beyond their original definition and have come to signify a myriad of meanings, not all offensive or vulgar.

      Some people may be offended however by the laziness and anti-intellectualism of people who choose express themselves with expletives. Understandably so. It represents a poignant lack of creative endeavour. Using two words to express what some, more intelligent and articulate people may take a brief lecture to communicate may be offensive to those who self worth is defined by their impressive conversational skills.

      I, however believe in the certain Teutonic efficiency that these words allow a speaker and believe they encourage increased productivity. For example, rather than dithering about trying to express ones feeling about a workplace issue, one might rather simply state “this is f*cked”. Thus expressing what may take a committee three months and 90 000 words to say. Granted it doesn’t offer any concrete solutions to the present situation. Mind you I have yet to find a report producing committee which does either.

    • Peter says:

      11:42am | 15/07/10

      Remember the debates about allowing swearing on TV? and if you opposed it you were considered backwards.. It seems we are getting dumber..

      I try to limit my swearing, but like most of us it just comes out at times..

    • Brad Coward says:

      11:44am | 15/07/10

      The “F-bomb”.  The “C-word”.  The “N-word”.  Holy S*** !  They are only words.  When I worked in pubs, many years back, every second word heard over the bar was an expletive.  I have become completely desensitised to the words.  Therefore, I often find myself having a swear about something or other without believing that someone should wash my mouth out with a cake of Solvol. 

      In fact, I have absolutely no problem with anyone letting their hair down and swearing like the proverbial trooper….unless it is directed at me or mine.  As I say, expletives are only words and in today’s world there is much happening worth swearing about.  So get in for your two bob’s worth, I say !

    • Ragster says:

      11:49am | 15/07/10

      I’ve never used foul language. Neither did my parents. I don’t like hearing foul language. The mounting problem these days is that it’s getting hard to avoid in the mass media. Sure, I can stop watching a TV show that contains bad language but then I’m deprived of the enjoyment of the show’s other elements. In print, the emerging habit to all but spell out expletives (i.e. f****ing) has the same effect as publishing them in full. The reader reads what’s intended. I find it distasteful but I don’t know how to avoid it.

    • A Bob says:

      01:00pm | 15/07/10

      “Under certain circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer.” - Mark Twain

    • NEFFA says:

      01:22pm | 15/07/10

      its not “just words” it IS “just lazy”

      Learn to speak people

    • Trjn says:

      02:13pm | 15/07/10

      It isn’t “just lazy”, swearing is often just “more efficient”.

      The ability to communicate hinges on a person’s ability to utilise the best words to express their position. Often, swearing can achieve that purpose more effectively than non-swearing, sometimes because of the taboo in place, others simply because it is the most appropriate word for situation.

      They are “just words” and anyone who deliberately opts to remove words from their vocabulary is reducing their ability to communicate, just like anyone who relies heavily on several words will have their ability to communicate reduced.

    • NEFFA says:

      06:56pm | 15/07/10

      sorry Trjn, it IS lazy.

      People do not swear because it is efficient, they do it because they lack the ability to express themselves in any other way.

      I am not offended by swearing, i just find it incredibly dull, especially when it is over used, as it most often is these days. It loses all meaning and all impact.

      Removing these words from your vocabulary actually INCREASES your ability to communicate as you will find alternative words to express yourself without having to resort to the gutter.

      Maybe you should try going a month without swearing and see how a whole new world of language opens up to you.

    • Reg says:

      11:44pm | 15/07/10

      I’m sorry to disagree NEFFA but swearing lends another avenue of communication and potential understanding. You should be criticizing sarcasm or some other form of deception.

      I learned to speak and write without swearing until I realised that I was missing out on another branch of available communications. So many of the current internet sites are constrained by superficial limitations, such as swearing, making them nothing less than a pale uninteresting imitation of humanity.

      If you are one to fiddle around the edges in communication, then you will never be understood, but swearing is a means by which specific details are highlighted. It is not shouting, it is a syllabic stress. 

      i shake my head sorrowfully at the gaps that exist between some of the Americans and the rest of the world because of their creepy religious restrictions. it is almost as if they set out to make themselves so boring that no-one could possibly agree to become seriously involved in pursuit of their goals. A standard shade of gray that I used to call Sydney gray.

      Perhaps you should start a crusade for the correct use of “you’re” instead of “your” or ‘their” instead of “there” or any other number of speech and written sins that clog up the sphinctoral corridors of human understanding.

    • Trjn says:

      11:56am | 16/07/10

      @NEFFA, my language skills are not going to be enhanced by not swearing for a month. When I swear it is because it is the appropriate means to express what I am trying to say.

      Typically when people search for alternatives to swearing, they simply resort to minced oaths. Phrases that typically express nothing more than that you are trying to swear but for one reason or another do not. Utilising words that exists solely for the purpose of not being taboo is not something anyone should consider an expansion of their vocabulary.

      Anyway, you do not need to look further than this very article to see that swearing can be the most efficient form of getting a message across. Amusingly, in this case it is done to express the idea that swearing is bad, but still here’s an example from the end of the article:
      ““Well, okay then,” I said sweetly, “How about *Effing* getting your own *Effing* breakfast then?”...Isn’t it funny how something’s okay until your mother does it?”

      Being concise isn’t being lazy.

    • TheRealDave says:

      01:52pm | 15/07/10

      The so called Intellectual Elite don’t swear, or denigrate those who do - because they can’t back it up with fists if someone takes offence.

      I love swearing, its colourful, it imparts so much meaning with its different inflections and is dependant on social situations and the company being kept. ‘Oh fer f@#ks sake!!’ just sounds so much better and gets your exasperation across better than ‘Gosh darnit’ or ’ I wish you hadn’t done that’.

      But if you are going to throw it about willy nilly you better be able to get back as good as you give.

    • laughingatyou says:

      02:40pm | 15/07/10

      “back it up with fists” ??!!

      Mate, you are deserving of every insult ever uttered, in any language. What a jerk.

      Seriously, those desperate attempts to compensate your low testosterone levels are just pathetic.

    • Chris L says:

      04:13pm | 18/07/10

      Laughingatyou, if you employ every insult ever uttered toward someone for saying “back it up with fists” what will you have left for someone who truly oversteps the line?

      I noticed you used the word “jerk”. I assume you were trying to be offensive. Might I suggest you would get a better response with “fucktard”?

    • Reg says:

      03:10pm | 15/07/10

      Interestingly both over-use and under-use of swearing have equal impacts.

      I was 37 before I hushed a crowded room by uttering my first F word.

      Everyone stopped talking and asked me to say that again. Then there was the time in a crowded tour bus fully of singers. I was saying to my friend how important it was to keep the chest cage erect. ... I’m sure all the air must have left the container, because if there is one word everyone is pre-tuned to, it is ERECTION. So the lesson is that if you are trying to get attention, don’t yell, don’t scream, just whisper “erection.” 

      Have you noticed that even the pure of speech try never to use that word and it’s not even swearing. Let is never ejaculate any swear words unless they hit the target dead centre.

    • Reg says:

      04:41pm | 15/07/10

      There’s probably no truth in the story that swearing was invented by cave men as a means of preventing hic-coughs.

      On the basis that prevention is better than cure, they discovered that the smooth outflow of air generated by a well delivered Ohhhhhh Fuuuuuuck alleviated the tendency to stand transfixed and red in the face, thus providing a ravenous creature with a well marked easy meal. Only the proficient swearers survived I believe.

      Still good.

    • S.L says:

      06:37pm | 15/07/10

      Catherine I will confess my language is disgusting. I work with the general public and have to watch myself but I think it might be a subconcious thing as I “click” into perfect manners when I sign on but after knock off time a sailor would blush at the language of me and my workmates. I have never heard that quote from Oscar Wilde before but I must agree with him…...

    • Reg says:

      12:00am | 16/07/10

      S.L. Then allow me to correct your line, “language of me and my mates.”  Swear as much as you like, but “me and my mates” is shithouse. 

      “I” swear, so it is “the language of my mates and I.”  however, since usage has labeled such construction unacceptable, you are quite entitled to say as you will. This lends even more support to swearing, after-all, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.  The tendency to use “I’“for everything, is a rebound from the days when people used “me” for everything. There is nothing else for it but to re-learn the whole bloody arrangement again and meanwhile feel free to curse the process as you go.  “Swearing is for you, me and her.”

    • Michellemac says:

      07:55pm | 15/07/10

      Be still my beating heart! Get out the smelling salts for us poor women when our sensibilities are offended by swearing. How “effing” insulting!

      Seriously, there are far worse things to worry about. Personally I’m more offended that someone would think that as a woman I am somehow more offended by swearing!

      My favourite character ever is Malcolm Tucker the swearing spin docotor from In The Loop and The Thick of It. Closely followed by Ari Gold in Entourage. These guys turn the swearing insult into an art form. And nothing classier than listening to someone with a refined English accent (aka Joanna Lumley) dropping the F-Bomb!

      OK there is a time and a place and there are limits but really I don’t get all the fuss.

    • Rachel says:

      10:16pm | 17/07/10

      I agree, scary that so many people seem to think that swearing is ok, but not in front of women. Have I just woken up in the 19th century or is this what contemporary Australia really looks like.

    • Chris L says:

      04:18pm | 18/07/10

      I seldom meet blokes who are offended by the C-word. Funny how there’s so many different expletives for penis but under no circumstances may the vagina be so disrespected!

    • Ripa says:

      08:10pm | 15/07/10

      Swearing is totally permissible within an argument if your opponent resorts to , name calling, criticising physical features, resorts to calling you a racist, or a “class” hater.
      Wilde says a lot of idealistic, reasonable things, however he fails to address that most arguments are won by the edge of a sword.

    • ibast says:

      08:56am | 16/07/10

      I’ve also come to realise that when someone is unable to be reasoned with and is being aggressive it is more appropriate to end the argument with an emphasized point.

      As to Wilde, despite being ahead of his time in many respects, he was nonetheless a product of his times.  I am sure he used words that 100 years earlier many would have found offensive.

    • Reg says:

      11:14am | 16/07/10

      No doubt you mean his display of revolution contained in ... ” When I think of all the harm the Bible has done, I despair of ever writing anything to equal it ” or “The very essence of romance is uncertainty.” 

      I’m not too sure that the banks or superannuates would agree with the last.

 

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