Who doesn’t love a good swear? An expletive-ridden rant, a well-timed sprinkling of cuss words, or even a cathartic battlecry of “F**k this!”?
Well, the editors of this column for one, who have to “***” out my rude words all the time.
But maybe not for much longer, as a new survey by Ofcom has found that swearing – especially on TV – no longer has the power to offend or shock, because British audiences have become more relaxed about expletives.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my potty mouth since becoming a parent.
I was in the park with my daughter Blake, midway through a phone call that would have made Malcolm Tucker blush, when I looked down and saw her cherubic face gazing up at me quizzically.
Not to mention a few disapproving looks from the other parents within earshot. Is swearing “unladylike”? Do “good mothers” never swear?
Surely not, given how trying parenthood can be on your patience and sanity.
I personally find swearing a real stress-reliever, so I’ll probably be even more foul-mouthed once Blake gets into her terrible twos.
Perhaps I’ll be the Sharon Osbourne of my local playpark, dropping “see you next Tuesdays” (Google it!) on the swings.
Swearing has always struck me as more interesting than shocking. Why do we consider some words and sounds taboo, but not others?
Obviously there are some types of profanity that are hurtful and harmful and should never be used – racial slurs, or words that are derogatory to people of certain ethnicities or sexual identities.
But when it comes to other “naughty” words, why does it bring us pleasure to say them? And are we sapping the joy out of swearing if we make them commonplace?
A few years ago I read a book called Swearing Is Good For You by Emma Byrne, and learned some fascinating things about what the words we consider to be bad are doing to our brains.
Apparently, people who swear like sailors are more honest and intelligent, and can also withstand more pain. One study found that people can keep their hands immersed in very cold water for longer if they shout profanities while they suffer.*
The book also points out that we use colourful language to help bond us to others. When I worked in a newsroom, constant swearing was like a badge of honour.
So I’m not surprised that research has found colleagues who share a vulgar back and forth tend to work more effectively together, feel closer and are more productive than those who don’t.**
I fondly remember one female newspaper editor I worked for, telling one of the male writers on our team that he was: “About as useful as a punch in the c**t.” He didn’t forget that in a hurry.
Now that Blake has started saying her first words, I should cut back on my swearing to avoid her effing and blinding.
I won’t be washing her mouth out with soap, though. There are better ways of dealing with swear words. When they’re uttered in the right way, at the right time, “bad” words can be useful, expressive and creative.
If she swears like a trooper then at least she’ll have a wide vocabulary. And if you happen to hear f-bombs at a kids’ soft play soon, it’ll probably be me.
Sorry, not f**king sorry.
● Follow Kate on Instagram @katewillswrites.
This week I’m…
Reading… Misfits: A Personal Manifesto
Michaela Coel’s Emmys speech was so inspiring and her new memoir is just as powerful.
It’s officially tights season! And these beauties are seamless, sag-free, shaping and vegan. Phew.
Watching… Come From Away
A West End musical about being grounded in an airport doesn’t sound like much fun, but it is.
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