Sunday, July 30, 2006

Here, Swear, and Everyswear

"Hey, what did Tourette's Syndrome sufferers say before the introduction of swear words?" - Hocked Box

Zoe Williams appears in The Age with a column about the 'reclamation of the C-word'. Yeah, 'cunt'. Ironically, in the same column, every mention of the C-word has been censored. Now that's a c-word I'd like to hear less of ...

The mistake feminists make, when they object to the c-word but never approach it and never use it, is to think that it will slip discreetly out of the language. Of course it won't! It's the rudest word we've got, in the entire language. It's like thinking the secret of nuclear fission is just going to disappear. (This was a point not lost on Inga Muscio, who made a splash with her book Cunt: A Declaration of Independence.)

But the Vagina Warriors' claim to be up to a certain job, claim to be iconoclasts, then go home at 4.30. They're the plumbers of the warrior world. Bring on the Cunt Warriors.

Indeed ...


An Opinion Fucking Column of My Own

People have been fucking arguing about swearing for fucking ages, and I've got to tell you, the whole thing is pretty fucking tedious. The debate pretty much relies on pedantic fucking arguments about meaning and shitful whining about context.

I'll start off by giving you one fucking example of this: if I call someone a cunt, does that make me a cunt? Is it a cunting thing to do to call a cunt a cunt? Should I use a different word, even if that person is a cunt?
Now, there are a lot of people who get the shits when you use the swear word 'cunt', since they say it degrades a completely fucking beautiful part of the female body. They're right about the last part, but I don't see why that means why anyone should stop using the word 'cunt'.
Well, what about dickheads? If I call a dickhead a dickhead, does that make me a cunt? After all, it's an insult based on what a lot of people would consider to be a completely fucking beautiful part of the male body.
Things get fucking complicated at this point, because feminists sometimes argue that the swear word 'cunt' is stronger than the swear word 'dickhead', and that because of this, while the swear word 'dickhead' is offensive, the swear word 'cunt' is truly fucking offensive. And, I've got to admit, this argument has me completely fucking stumped. Sure, the word 'cunt' is stronger the word 'dickhead', but I've no fucking idea how you could measure this offensiveness. It's a pretty fucked-up notion - some word being 'more' offensive than some other word. And is it a bad thing? Some friends of mine once said they liked the swear word 'cunt' because it was more powerful than 'dickhead'. They had cunts themselves, which I guess made them kind of an authority on the matter. So does it even fucking matter in the long run if 'cunt' is more offensive than 'dick'?
There are shitloads of other examples. Calling someone an arsehole is an insult to the arsehole. There's a lot that could be said for the arsehole. Not only does the arsehole take a lot of shit from us, but it gets fucked up occasionally, too. So why should we call an arsehole an 'arsehole', further degrading the reputation of the arsehole? And of course, who could fucking forget 'fucking'? Fucking is a beautiful thing. We should all fuck more often. So why should we fucking use the swear word 'fucking' every second sentence? It's a complete fucking travesty, I tell you!
The only trouble is, if we followed this fucking argument very far, then I think we'd be in worse fucking trouble than before. (I'll get back to that argument in a fucking second, if you don't fucking mind.)

One acquaintance of mine once told me that she didn't mind the use of swear words, but that she didn't want them to be fucking gratuitous. Now she's got a pretty frigging good point, I thought. But then I thought about it a bit more, and I realised that pretty much any swear word in any situation at all could be seen as gratuitous. How crappy was that? I mean, here's is just one fucking example:

The Haiku Of The Happy Man In The Truck.

Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck:
I like riding in my truck!
Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!

In this poem, the speaker uses the expletive 'fuck' repeatedly and gratuitously to express his happiness. Can you fucking imagine what would happen if we had to fucking change that?

The Haiku Of The Happy Man In The Truck #2

Oh, it's just my luck:
I like riding in my truck!
Oh, it's just my luck!

The fucking meaning is changed completely. Of course, we could try to write a third version -

The Haiku Of The Happy Man In The Truck #3

Joy, joy, joy, joy, joy:
I like riding in my truck!
Joy, joy, joy, joy, joy!

- but this time, though the meaning is there, the rhyme has disappeared. And what's the fucking point of a poem without rhymes? Rhymes are sometimes the most fucking pleasant thing about them.
The point is, sometimes even when swear words are gratuitous, they're the most fucking natural expression possible. Sometimes, as shitty as it seems, we just have to rely upon the author to make their own choices over whether to use swear words.
And in case you're not convinced by that, let's try a different example. Let's imagine what a shitful place the world would turn out to be if some arsehole banned expletives. Here's just a few examples of common phrases that would change - and the list is pretty fucking long, let me tell you:

Fucking hell!
[Banned expletive] hell!
Frig you!
[Banned expletive/adjective] you!
Shit for brains!
[Banned noun] for brains!
[Banned expletive]face.
Fuck off and die. [Banned adjective] and die.

And here is just one paragraph which could be banned:

[Banned expletive] hell, [Banned expletive/adjective] you, [Banned expletive]face [Banned noun] for brains! [Banned adjective] and die!

This practice would leave the robust Australian vernacular language completely rooted, sucking all the life out of it. Whole sentences would lose meaning and potency. Heck, some people probably wouldn't be able to speak at all! Is that what we fucking well want?

But Tim, I hear you cry, enough of these fucking examples! Fucking get on with it!

Al-fucking-right already! Besides, I was just coming to my main point. My main point is this: behind a lot of these arguments is a simpler, more persistent, argument: If you are able to control the language, you are able to control the people who talk. In other words, if we can stop people 'fuck'ing and 'shit'ing and 'cunt'ing and 'arsehole'ing - if we could alter the meaning of the English language in this basic way - then we would be able to control people. Just to give you one example: according to some feminists, if we stopped using the word 'cunt' in a derogatory fashion, then an item of discrimination would be wiped from the English language, and society would be the better for it.

Now this idea, I think, is a lot more fucking offensive than swear words are. If you start wanking about the 'meaning' and 'use' of words in the English language, then you're up shit creek without a paddle. Pretty soon, everybody will be wanking on about the 'meaning' and 'use' of words. And if everybody kept on fucking redefening the language, we would have no fucking way of understanding one another.
Despite all this wanking about the 'context' and 'power' that certain words have, language is first and foremost for communication. The attempts by groups to change the English language by changing the meaning of this word, and throwing that word out, are absolutely fucked up.

And that's fucking all I've got to say. Now why don't you all go and get fucked? And I mean that in the nicest possible way.


TimT said...

I wrote this as a response to the linked Vibewire article some time ago, but had to wait until the subject of swearing came up again. That column by Zoe Williams seemed as good an excuse as any ...

nailpolishblues said...

I've always prefered cock to dick - when it comes to swearing, that is. Dick is relatively innocuous and, in both meaning and usefuleness, not quite as versatile. [And yes, I do take my swearing way too seriously.]
I'm also more than happy to use cunt. I know the arguments against but, geeze, it really packs a punch and I find it less offensive slang for vag than, say, that god-awful pussy...

TimT said...

I prefer the plain words to the more unusual varieties. 'Dick' over 'cock', and 'cunt' over 'fanny' or 'pussy'. Breasts are kind of a grey area - 'Boobs' or 'tits'? All of the words are either technical or seem a little bit weird. Though I suppose as far as swear words go, they're not very sweary. 'Tits' is probably the rudest.

Though if you're setting out to offend someone, I guess that would change things a bit ...

TimT said...

It's funny how weird it is when you see swear words in pre-1950s writing. You don't expect them, but they go right back. Do a google search for 'Byron Cunt', and you'll come up with at least two quotes. I think Robbie Burns liked 'cunt' a lot, too. I guess that the fact that old writers weeren't *allowed* to say things like that pretty much makes swearing seem new and exciting. Kind of self-defeating, really.

How's that for thinking too much about swearing?

nailpolishblues said...

I do call people tits - as in 'you are a tit' but I wasn't thinking of boobs at the time. The only breast slang I find really irritating is 'titties' - makes the speaker sound like a three year old. Especially bad in a sexual context.

I'm a tart of anything vaguely historical - language usage is always amusing.

TimT said...

Tit is a great insult. 'You are a tit'! I hear a lot of British people using it. When it comes to crass and vulgar vernacular, you can't really go past Cockney. (Ha ha, cock!)

And by all accounts, Byron was a cunt ...

nailpolishblues said...

He certainly spent a lot of his time in them.

That was too crass. I apologise, I'm still posting it, but I apologise.

TimT said...

Oh, please don't apologise. That was a marvellous description. Very evocative!

I was given the impression that he was father fond of the opposite, too. A bit of a bi, apparently. Or a bi who liked bits.

nailpolishblues said...

I think he was just a man who took any opening offered.

ras said...

There was something rather arousing about this post Tim, I think it was the perversity of you swearing.

Possibly because you normally dont swear and I think of you in a rather upright, correct the reading a fairly consistent flow of expletives was, well, pretty kinky!


nailpolishblues said...

Well, I feel slightly dirty now.

TimT said...

Hopefully this will up the amount of crass and vulgar google searches for this site.

For some reason, people only seem to find their way to this site from weird mispellings or combinations of long intellectual words.

Bring on the porno deviant search strings!

Gauchegirl said...

I try not to swear as much as I used to (or at all if I can help it) cause for myself I think of it as somewhat of a bad habit. Can I just say however - that was fucking hilarious.

TimT said...

It was a while since I wrote this, but it made some interesting problems for me. For one thing, I had to suppress the urge to be polite - being crude was the point. Also, I had to try and make swearing more expressive than it usually is. Being gratuitous without being gratuitous, if you know what I mean. Weird. But fun writing it.

I had similar problems with that piece I wrote about self-worship, at the top of my blog (at the moment).

Caz said...

I get a lot of searches for "naked avatars",or boys / girls in undies, that sort of thing. Go figure.

Gauchegirl said...

Yeah, the self-worship piece made me laugh as well. It also reminded me of the following post that I read at Easter this year:

I like the way you write and have enjoyed the stuff I've read on your site.

Email: timhtrain - at -

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