Unsurprisingly, it is often commented that I swear just a bit too much. And interestingly, I don’t think I actually do.
I type this as I sit in the pub. Not a swanky wine bar or a restaurant. A proper pub. I’m a huge fan of a dirty old boozer. The sort of place where women drinks halves and men read the Racing Post. A place full of cod-philosophers, male pattern baldness and deep set wrinkles from outdoor working and chain-smoking.
It reminds me of my childhood, where I was found asleep under tables in Southern Irish bars and glimpses through the fug of smoke when I received my red lemonade and Tayto crisps to keep me quiet. But the thing I remember with most fondness is the sandpaper rasp of voices that come from a lifetime of Embassy and late nights leading to a persistent cough in the early mornings. A voice that can only emerge from the face of a human that uses both of their hands without pause and learns to talk through the corner of their mouth that is unoccupied by a cigarette.
FOOK. EEEARSE. COONT. BASHTARD.
Simple, ancient words that pepper the speech and mesh sentences together. There’s a certain comfort in those well-worn consonants.
I swear far more in type than I ever do face-to-face, although I have my moments and am generally unafraid to call a fucking idiot a fucking idiot. Someone has to tell them. Better to be a thick-skinned old battleaxe like me than someone who can’t deal with the repercussions of firing out a good sweary home truth. But mainly I like the way obscenities look on screen and paper. The shape of the words and all their glorious multi-purpose uses. They act like grout, securing sentences to the page from all sides. They can be quietly disgusted or vehemently angry. They can erupt with delicious excitement, expressions of joy or absolute heartbreak.
In short, one must never underestimate the value of a well-placed fuck.
Having been the proud owner of a mucky old potty mouth for the best part of thirty years, I have a full utilitarian understanding of all the ways, forms and reasons that it is wrong, unpleasant or unnecessary to swear. And I roundly choose to ignore them. That’s not to say that I don’t impose my own boundaries. I will not swear around other people’s children, for example. And I temper my language somewhat around my own daughter. However, as respectful as I am to the sensitivities of others in The Real World, I always keep in mind that it is mildly absurd that we as a species have created words that we then decide are not appropriate to use. With this in mind, we have followed the lead of a dear friend (and fellow expletive fan) who taught her daughter that swear words are just as valid as any others, but they are not for use by children. Basically, wait a few years and you can bollocks, shit and arse to your hearts content.
Many many years ago, a friends mother (who, in hindsight, was probably a formative figure in my swearing life) was listening to an animated conversation my friends and I were having and casually interjected with “if you must swear, then please do it properly. There’s nothing worse than dropped g’s and h’s”. This was the first time anyone had essentially said ‘yes, it’s ok to swear’ and moreover, given advice on how to do it. It was a revelation. Instead of mimicking the cussing of building sites, my friends and I delighted in perfecting cut-glass cursing. It had and still has the power to shock. It’s an attention grabbing mechanism that rarely fails. And, if executed correctly, it’s as sexy as hell.
There is no laziness in my cursing. On the contrary, I carefully choose the placement and severity of the swear words I use. I curate their use rather than punctuate passages of language with them, always mindful that a whacking great ‘cunt’ can be the difference between an epic win or a complete bollock of a paragraph. It’s a superb game to play. Like word Lego. And these words enchant and thrill me beyond belief. I am a collector of words. A consumer. They are as edifying to me as any art or music.
And all other explanations aside, swearing is utterly fucking hilariously funny. Obv.