A few thoughts on swearing…

WELL, I swear – but not too often.

Nothing too bad, but I do have my favourites. The two most regular mouth marbles hardly even count, or so I always maintain. Our distant daughter, away in Australia for the year, sends me a message to put me right. Even from the other side of the world, she hasn’t lost her cheeky side – “See Dad, balls and bollocks are swears!”

Those are two of my favourites and I always maintain that they don’t count as swearing, but it seems that I am wrong. The communications regulator Offcom has compiled a list that ranks British swearwords in order of offensiveness, and that spherical pair are in there.

Those two are a few of my favourite sweary things, and they appear in the section marked ‘medium’, alongside other imprecations including ‘arse’, ‘bullshit’, ‘pissed off’ and ‘shit’.

Now I do love a good ‘arse’, even if that is a risky way to begin a sentence. A good old word, popularised by the sitcom The Royle Family, which had “my arse” as a catch-phrase. In the recent election, mocked-up posters appeared saying: “Strong and stable my arse”. These turned out to be the work of the Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller, who was inspired by the U-turning of Theresa May.

Give that man another prize, I say.

It is interesting to see this dry list, with all the swearwords arranged under headings from “generally of little concern” – that’ll be you, arse – all the way through to the ‘strongest words’, two of which I can’t bring myself to type. Well, my mother reads this blog. As is common these days, I do occasionally mutter ‘fuck’, which is the third most offensive word.

Anyway, swearing is a wonderful thing, but you shouldn’t overdo it. There is a sense of rhythm and comic timing to good swearing; good swearing enlivens and enriches the language, I’d say. But bad swearing just becomes dull and deadening.

If you want to find out how offensive you are, look up that list. But I’d better get a move on as we are busy today. I can hear my wife vacuuming upstairs. She’ll be calling me something off that list if I’m not careful.

As today is Father’s Day, this daddio is going to end by saying ‘balls’ – and that isn’t swearing, whatever Offcom says. Bollocks to that.


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