Boring, Boring, Boring: Swear Words

When I was younger, linguistic ‘tics’ used to irritate me profoundly. Time was when every sentence I heard in France seemed to have a meaningless ‘si vous voulez’ tacked on to it. In Britain there was, and still is, the endless repetition of ‘like’ and its cousin ‘innit’. These, however, do not bore me in the way that profanity does. It seems that many people are now incapable of framing a sentence that does not contain a swear-word, most often the one that begins with ‘f’ and ends with ‘k’. It is used as a descriptive, as punctuation, as mere sound, but it is tedious in the extreme. Some people use it in the hope that we in the monastery will be shocked, not realising that it would take a lot more to shock nuns. More often, people use it unthinkingly, not realising how it weakens their argument precisely because it is obvious that it is used unthinkingly. Twitter is spattered with it; and one has only to walk down the nearest street to hear it spoken, sometimes by very young children.

Couldn’t we think a little more about the words we use, and try to find those that will express what we really want to say? There are many words we can no longer use without giving offence and most of us take care to avoid them. Why not take as much care to avoid those that are simply boring and ultimately devoid of meaning?


16 thoughts on “Boring, Boring, Boring: Swear Words”

  1. When my children were younger and started using expletives on a repetitive basis I asked them what words they would use in a real moment of stress when swearing would be excusable (albeit undesirable). That made them think a bit and the mindless repetition eased off to a considerable degree.
    I must say, though, that I would enjoy a lot more of Facebook if the f-word and the sh-word were only evident in moments of extreme crisis.

  2. I worked in a large mental hospital and the swearing by the old timers and staff were enough to make it feel like something you really didn’t want to hear or use if sane..

  3. People swear by what they hold most precious. In former times this usually meant something sacred, religious, as in “bloody” ( God’s blood, Christ’s blood etc). See also Browning’s Soliloquy in a Spanish Cloister, where the infuriated and envious monk speaker says
    “If hate killed men, Brother Lawrence,
    God’s blood, would not mine kill you”.
    This holds true in Bavaria, deeply Catholic, where in moments of stress a variety of expletives involving the crucifix and sacraments can be heard. Isn’t it sad that sex and bodily functions are the most valuable things in English-speaking countries?

  4. I wonder why the trend to such profanity is used to widely, even by well educated, well brought up people?

    I’m not sure that I was well brought up, but I was taught that any self respecting Catholic, wouldn’t use profanity.

    In the Armed Forces, we were used to profanity, but never when addressing someone junior in rank or status to you, as it was regarded as a form of bullying.

    Mind you, you were addressed purely by your Surname by those superior to you well into the Eighties, when somehow respect for the dignity of individuals became customary, so you would be addressed by your rank AND name.

    I have found as an adult that the use of profanity is just as your say, tiresome and perhaps gives a label of a particular type of person to those who use it. Which is a shame, as no doubt being so judgmental is not a good Christian trait.

    What I can say is that I have never heard my spouse utter even a soft profanity, let alone the sort of language all to common these days. She thinks that they should be brought up better and be set an example by their parents of not using bad language. Sadly, it seems the cultural changes since we were both young, wont’t be changed anytime soon.

  5. “Speak softly and tenderly to Jerusalem, but also make it very clear That she has served her sentence, that her sin is taken care of – forgiven! She’s been punished enough and more than enough, and now it’s over and done with.”

    Can you imagine the above quote from Isaiah with f***ing scattered throughout it? Ironically, people tend to think that adding an expletive makes their point more solidly…in this day and age it merely makes it ‘bro speak’ and of no particular value!
    (trying out the new font/format….I quite like it!) x

  6. My sister, an extremely intelligent woman, sprinkles her speech and tweets with profanity. When challenged, she retorts, “It’s a perfectly good word; it’s in the dictionary.” What would be a good response to that? It especially distresses me and the rest of our family when she uses God’s name, or the name of Jesus, in that manner. (She is the only one of us who does not practice her religion. She believes in God, but not in the Church.) In that case, I always silently say, “Blessed be His holy name.” I’m not good at confrontations, and have no gift for debate, whereas she excels at both.

    • It sounds to me as though your sister may be deliberately trying to get a response of shock or disgust from you. I think your silent benediction is the best way to respond. I share your unhappiness about misusing the holy name of God.

  7. By swearing people sometimes defeat their own argument. They may be making a cogent argument but if it’s not read in its entirety because the reader is ‘turned off’ by the language used then it becomes worthless.

    I can still remember the first time, as a child, I swore in front of my dad. It was a slip of the tongue but dad’s reaction both surprised me and probably moderated my language more than any other possible reaction. Instead of the expected clip round my ear, he simply said “Just so long as you know when it’s appropriate.”

  8. “it would take a lot more to shock nuns”, truly!
    I was impressed to read some years ago an interview on the great orchestral director Carlo Maria Giulini; the director Franco Zeffirelli said about him: “He was a great man; you would be ashamed to swear in front of him”.
    It will be very hard, but we’d be this kind of person!

  9. I agree.

    But personally I’d rather hear a little profanity than the constant ‘blaspheming’ that one is subjected to on a daily basis on the news, in shops, in general conversations, by young children etc etc
    I find the continuous use of ‘OMG’ ( said in full) and the inappropriate use of Jesus’ name far more troubling.

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