My first ever memory of swearing was using the F-word in a game of Hangman with my dad when I was about eight (I wish I was kidding). His reaction was a frightful combination of shock, disgust and slight tinge of amusement at his usually mild-mannered little princess’ sudden vulgar verbal expulsion. Of course, back then I didn’t really know what it meant, or why it was so frowned upon. It was just something I had picked up in the playground back at junior school in Liverpool, in between games of Bullrush and Off-ground tig.
Fast-forward about 14 years or so, and whilst I haven’t said that word again at home, I’m swearing far more than I’d like. Especially whilst at uni. Admittedly, it’s mainly in my head rather than out loud, but I still cringe every time I let the odd one slip. It’s not a nice feeling. And it’s a common problem too.
So why do we do it so much? Generally, the one thing that can turn even the most soft-spoken individual into a potty-mouthed terror is high levels of stress. But we need to put this into perspective. Is it really a huge deal in the long run if you’re out of milk one morning? And while stubbing your toe or standing on an upturned plug may seem two of the most painful things imaginable, are they really that bad on the whole spectrum of possible injuries? A positive, balanced outlook brings with it a whole host of benefits, and eliminating the need to swear is one of them. So next time you feel a cuss-word coming on, take a deep breath or two to re-centre and calm yourself.
And whilst you are more than entitled to enjoy music served up with a healthy side of profanity in your downtime, it’s important to remember that only a very small percentage of the world’s population are able to swear as part of their job. I’ve dreamed of a rap career more times than I care to divulge, but it’s important to take a reality check: most of us aren’t, and won’t ever will be, world famous rappers. Swearing in the public eye, certainly at the workplace, is a massive no-no. Just don’t go there.
We’re now in an age where we are bombarded by expletives from all angles and through all forms of media, from music to TV to internet forums. Gone are the days where you’d have any kind of apprehension of swearing in front of lots of people – forums allow you to launch all the obscenities you’d want, straight to the public eye from the comfort of your home, tucked away safely behind the screen of your MacBook Pro (forgive me Windows lovers…). Unsurprisingly, such a surge in the prevalence of profanities has been clearly reflected in society as a whole. I can’t go into Manchester city centre without hearing some sort of swearing, be it the boisterous football hooligans on derby day or that one scary young mum who always takes the reprimanding of her kids a bit too far. It’s evident enough that we’re eroding the taboo-ness of such words through burgeoning overuse, but this will just make way for new ones, and the irreverent swear-cycle will begin yet again.
At the end of the day, there is both a time and a place for swearing, and we are starting to get it a bit wrong (I always feel a twinge of pain and embarrassment for each swear-word uttered in front of the families with kids on an overcrowded train…). Perfect case on hand is this recently viral video. Whilst there is no denying that this had me in absolute stitches, the prude in me thought it was hugely inappropriate and just downright vulgar on the mum’s part to swear at her kids.
The truth is, our diminishing vocabularies, coupled with a perceived “zero-incentive” attitude towards stopping swearing has led us to almost be tolerant of its presence in society. What happened to the prospect of being a polite, well-mannered person as incentive enough to cut back on profanity? Such a slip in standards is a pretty disturbing thought the way I see it. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not going to be easy, but baby steps are key here. Here’s to biting my tongue – who’s with me?