Today I was told off. It was fairly gently sugested to me that I should not wear clothes with swear words on them when I’m doing the school run. I haven’t been told off by a teacher in quite some time (apart from my mum, but that doesn’t count). At first I was embarrassed to have had the conversation, but then I got angry.
As the day went on I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I understand that schools and other parents might be offended by words like ‘fuck’ or ‘shit’ but there are, in my opinion plenty of other things that are more offensive that we should perhaps tackle first.
Swear words are funny things. When all is said and done they are just words like any other and only have the power that we give them. Most swear words can actually be tracked back to very mundane beginnings for example shit comes from the Germanic word for poo and fuck comes from the Germanic words meaning to strike and having sex. In fact they only became ‘offensive’ once those in power or religious leaders deemed them so. Personally I find those in power and religious leaders far more offensive. No war has been started because someone said the word ‘fuck’.
So why are they such taboo? I think we can all acknowledge that there has been a shift in how these words are used. Aside from my brother teaching me swear words when I was 5, I never really heard them often. My parents never used them in my presence and they certainly weren’t in tv shows and films that I watched until I was in my mid to late teens. However in the years since, society does seem to be relaxing around the use of these words. I know that I have used swear words in the workplace, I use them commonly in my every day speech and I’m not alone. Swearing is very much part of the millennial vocabulary. However despite this shift there is still this feeling of shock and awe around the use of these words, particularly amongst the older generations and when amongst children.
Swear words have historically been used as a form of attack against a person. A way to insult and demean someone. However, that does seem to be less the case nowadays. These days swear words are expressive. We use them to express frustration, elation and a whole spectrum of emotions. We describe things as ‘the dog’s bollocks’ (good) or ‘bollocks’ (bad). We can say ‘fucking amazing’ or ‘fucking shite’. We say something ‘is the shit’ (good) or something is simply ‘shit’ (bad). Language evolves and with it so must our reaction to it. Look at the works of Austen – people do not speak so formally anymore, nor have they done so for many generations but I am sure the transition from ‘awfully’ to ‘awful’ caused many an elder to raise their eyebrows. Would you even notice ‘awful’ to be slang nowadays?
I can honestly say that I do not censor myself around my kids. I swear frequently and my kids hear it. So far Rufus has been the only one to use the words himself and we just told him to not use the language at school as other children my not be allowed to. I realise that this tactic should probably also be applied to myself, but I tend not to converse with many children in the playground or in the classroom. I’m there to drop my kids off, pick them up and have a gossip with my fellow parents. I do understand where the school is coming from, but I just don’t agree. I don’t think we should have to censor ourselves if we are doing no harm to others and I truly believe that to be offended by swear words does suggest a slightly skewed set of priorities. Perhaps if we were more offended by racism we wouldn’t have Boris Johnson as our Prime Minister, if we were more offended by billionaires existing in the same country as people relying on food banks poverty wouldn’t exist here, if we were more offended by homophobia we wouldn’t have to accept that the Church of England won’t perform same sex weddings and perhaps if we were more offended by the atrocities committed by the British Empire we wouldn’t be such an arrogant, pompous, entitled nation of hypocrites. Honestly, what’s more offensive me wearing t-shirt saying ‘fuck this shit’ or the fact that Winston Churchill is still taught to our children as a national hero?
In my opinion swearing is good. Scientifically it has been proven to actually be beneficial to our health and some studies suggest that the prolific use of swear words can signify a greater level of intelligence (although I do question the reliability of those studies when we consider the use of swear words by the alt right).
For the sake of an easy life I won’t wear that t-shirt on the school run again, but you can be sure that I will continue to wear it proudly at other times. Language is a beautiful thing and I will use it to express myself as often and as loudly as I can. So I gladly say SEX THIS POO!