Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday Correspondence: A Letter To Swearing

Special Guest Writer Kate Says: 

Dear Swearing,

I don’t need you in my life. There, I said it and it’s true! The last time I said the ‘F’ word I was an angst-ridden 16-year-old and I felt so dirty afterwards that I vowed never to repeat it again…ever! Unlike my peers, I don’t find an emotional outlet by screaming filthy words in public (or in private for that matter). Needless to say, the ‘C’ word has never passed my lips. Yes, it’s true, I have been known to throw around a couple of humpty-dumpties, such as ‘shit’ and ‘bloody’ in my time, but never in front of the elderly or children and to be honest, hardly ever in front of my friends.

If I am too upset to string a sentence together, I will not lower my intelligence level by filling in the blanks with F-bombs. Instead I will walk away from the situation, clear my head and come back with a constructive response. But you see, the problem is, Swearing, you’re not just there in the moments of emotional turmoil. You’re EVERYWHERE! You’re there in the places and moments I least expect. Surprising me at every turn. You’re on the lips of men who have had too much to drink and think they’re hilarious. You’re squatting in the brains of mothers who are at the end of their tether in the supermarket aisles. Children use you freely in the playground. You’ve even set up shop in my friend’s throats, waiting for the most inappropriate opportunity to strike.

Hearing my family swear is like watching a male-identified transsexual give birth, it’s awkward and you wonder if you’ll ever be the same afterwards.

My last run-in with you involved a group of primary school aged boys running around the swimming room changing rooms. They were all naked with one boy telling the others in no uncertain terms what he was going to do with his (and I quote) “F-ing big, black cock!” …this coming from the mouth of a scrawny, ginger-haired, Scottish child. No, Swearing, I don’t know where his parents were but let’s hope they would have been just, if not more, appalled by his outburst.

I’m not going to lie anymore Swearing. You’re totally offensive to me and there’s nothing you can do to stop me from feeling this way…unless it involves expanding the vocabulary of every man, woman and child to a point where they will be able to express themselves without you.

Your nemesis,
Kate Stark.

Lauren Says:
Dear Swearing,

I was ten when I met your first, before that you’d just been a blurry familiarity, whizzing by on late night tv shows I wasn’t meant to watch and falling from the lips of adults who had slipped up and then made an ungainly attempt at covering it up.

At ten, you were the coolest thing to come around. Cooler, even, than making it on to the newly formed dance squad, or playing handball at lunchtime. All of a sudden all the tykes at school were whipping out strings of expletives with the epic enthusiasm and embarrassing clumsiness. I refrained, partly because being cool, no matter how much I cursed, was probably beyond me (that said I did make it on to the dance squad the year after that, and my handball skills are nothing short of awesome) and partly because I was sure my mum had super spies hidden in the playground who would report back to her on the foulness of my language.

High school came and you upped your level. There were new words and they certainly weren’t all limited to four letters. Anatomical references melded their way in and soon things got very offensive, but also, to our young minds, very hilarious. I have to say I slipped in high school, the mild tongued lass I had been taking on the language she thought made her seem more adult. I was the absolute queen of knowing my timing though, never once bringing out the bad words in front of parents, teachers, the elderly or the young. Swearing was a peer thing more than a part of myself.

Now I’m an adult, I have to say I can appreciate a well timed curse or a dirty worded joke. I don’t have the mouth of a sailor, no sir, but there are times when a swear word here or there in movies, books or conversation might stir my amusement. It has to be creative though, if our frankly pretty adequate language is to be bastardised then thought needs to be put into it.

Swearing, I don’t think we’ll ever become close friends, you and I. We will never be effortless together, just stilted and awkward like two peas of very different kinds stuck in the same pod, and that’s not the way it’s meant to be. I like you sometimes, you make me laugh, but there are times when you are very hurtful and down right crude. I’d like to see you used more sparingly, though I fear sounding like the most boring old biddy when I say this, you’re becoming too much a part of the vernacular. I say it for you benefit as well, think of the impact you could have, the laughs you could get or the seriousness you could inspire if you picked your moments wisely.

Swearing, I hope to hear from you far less often in future.

Not yours,


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