What Are Your Thoughts on Swearing?

Post 837

Fucking love it. Sorry, I should’ve probably started this post by saying that today’s post is extremely NSFW. And when I say ‘NSFW,’ I do not mean, ‘National Schools Film Week.’ Whatever the hell that is. But swearing is fascinating, ladies and gentlemen, it really is. Did you know, for example, that it was the Puritans who banished cock? Mm-hmm. No, really. Not that kind of cock, though. No, you see, come the 18th century, the word ‘cock’ was being used ever more to describe a man’s doo-dah, and the Puritans, who pretty much ran the western world back then, really weren’t happy about this. When people referred to one of their farm animals as a ‘cock,’ it resulted in a puerile titter, and thus the Puritans were mightily annoyed. Thus they invented the word ‘rooster’ to stop the laughing. Seriously. The word ‘rooster’ was invented to replace the word ‘cock’ to stop children behaving… well, like children. Many Americans might mourn the passing of the word ‘cock’ as now they almost exclusively use the word ‘rooster,’ but I’m sure they’ll be delighted to discover the word ‘cock’ is still prevalent in the UK as ‘rooster’ never really took off here. So now you know. The Puritans banished cock. Tee, he, he…

Swearing is as old as time. No, really, it is. Even the cavemen swore. “Ah shit, it’s too early to get up for work…” The average person swears an awful lot, readers. 0.7% of the words we use every day are swears. Some people, however, are up to 3%, and we all know somebody like that. My mum, for one. It’s said that children know at least one swear word before they learn the alphabet and that they really start going at it around three or four, very much the, ‘Let’s See How Much I Can Piss Off Mum and Dad’ phase of childhood. I miss being four, I really do.

If you don’t believe me when I say that swearing has been around for yonks, how about this: there is swearing… in the Bible. The King James version. From 1611. Authorised. And translated, of course. But still, this is something you can actually look up, readers. 2 Kings 18:27. ‘But Rabshekeh said unto them, hath my master sent me to the men which sit on the wall, that they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you?’ I mean… it’s like something from a Sex Pistols song, it really is…

In those 1600s, the most taboo one could get was to blaspheme, and nobody knows this better than poor John Taylor. In 1676, this Englishman was dragged kicking and screaming to Westminster court, all because he swore. It’s said that his words were so unthinkable, the judge committed him to Bedlam Mental Asylum to determine if he was mad. Seriously. Sadly, his treatment, probably some primitive version of electro-shock therapy, didn’t work. So he found himself back before the judge. Taylor pleaded that he was a good Christian and never meant any harm by his words, but nobody was having it. He was fined and ordered to stand in Westminster pillory, which is that wooden board you often see in old timey shows, with holes one sticks one’s hands and head through. Worse still, a piece of paper was stuck to his head that read, ‘For blasphemous words, tending to the subversion of all government.’ Worse still, he was then imprisoned, until, as the judge said, he could find someone to vouch for his character. Taylor spent the rest of his life in jail. There is a moral to this tale. Hmm… not sure… what exactly…

Still, it wasn’t all bad. Taylor’s pillory was the first in Westminster, which turned out to be a very good investment. Taylor was also the first to be prosecuted for swearing, in a landmark legal first. It paved the way for plenty of cussing pillory action. I mean, I’m sure Taylor won’t be delighted with these things, but who cares, he’s probably at the bottom of the Thames…

The decline of the feudal society led to the rise of the merchant classes, and, as such, blasphemy went out the window. Taboos were breaking down as society was buckling under an increasing population. People were screwing everywhere they could and were evacuating bodily functions almost in as many locales. People weren’t easy to offend because there was very little people weren’t exposed to. It was only when the Victorians rose up that swearing, once more, became shackled and oppressed. One word, uttered by a member of the public in the early 19th century, caused a public outcry so ridiculous it would make your pants fall down. Various newspapers slammed the word’s use and called it ‘unmentionable.’ That word? Yes, you guessed correctly, was ‘trousers.’ Actual trousers. Just marvellous.

You might think it was an American who first uttered the F-bomb on television. No, it wasn’t. The British? No, not us, either. In fact, it was a drunken Irishman, which I just find… utterly brilliant. Who else but a… drunken Irishman? If you ask me, they shouldn’t have interviewed a drunken Brendan Behan on Panorama in 1956, but there we are. The second instance of the F-bomb on television… was also an Irishman. He was a painter and was painting some railings when an interviewer from a television magazine show, wandering around, for some reason, came up and asked him to describe his job. Literally the first two words out of his mouth were, “Fucking boring.” I love the Irish, I really do…

Swearing is a powerful thing, so powerful, in fact, it can even change the very skin you’re in. Hearing and saying swear words changes our skin’s conductance response, making our palms all sweaty. And, as we all know, there are countless studies that show swearing can help to alleviate pain. Dr. Richard Stephen once recruited 64 volunteers to see how long they could tolerate pain, with and without swearing. The volunteers held their hands in ice water for as long as they could. When swearing, the volunteers managed to keep their hands in the water for up to 30% longer. It’s also thought this works best in men, which proves that nature really is a total bastard. Fascinating, huh? In case you’re wondering what spurred Stephen on to conduct this study, well, you know the old story, readers. His wife turned the hospital ward rather blue when she gave birth. He described her expletives as ‘rather impressive.’ I’d assume they were out of morphine…

And here’s something. Politicians who swear are more likely to get voted into power. That explains Trump, then. Countless studies have found that if a politician should swear, they are perceived as more likeable. So that’s how you get in to power. Interesting. That said, it isn’t, surprisingly, the Americans who swear the most. Nope. You’ll never guess who. Honestly, if I asked you to rank all the countries from those that swear least to those that swear the most, you would put the country that swears most so far down your list, it would be under… I don’t know, Palau, probably. Are you ready? It’s Canada. Actual Canada. I tell you what, after that Ontario post last week, my entire perception of Canada is changing faster than I can keep up…

You might wonder where we get our swear words from, and that’s a question I’m sure the WordPress censor department are eager for me to answer. Unfortunately, for you, I like being on air, so I may have to do some avoiding around the nastiest of swears. And let me tell you, I’m pretty good at doing that. Easy as pie, it will be. So let’s take a look at fuck. Oh, shit… I wasn’t meant to say… drat… this is thought to come from a 14th century Englishman with the name, Roger Fuckebythenavele. You can look up the historical records if you don’t believe me, this is real. Okay, it was a real nickname of a man, but we don’t know his real name. It was given to him by members of the public gallery in a court, a court he was dragged to for one some dishonourable reason or another. All we know is that Roger ‘fucked by the navele,’ which is a small boat, in case you’re wondering. I mean, if somebody did that on my small boat, I’d be offended, but next to it just sounds a touch persnickety. I think he should be given a medal. ‘Tis a brave man who does that on a pier. I mean, really, who wants ass splinters?

The earliest uses of this word had it meaning ‘to strike,’ and not… erm, the other thing. As for ‘shit,’ it is one of the oldest words in the English language. Originally, it referred to the actual shit of actual cattle, and was extremely common in British place names. The hamlet of Skidbrook was once named in the Doomsday Book as ‘Schitebroc,’ meaning ‘shit stream.’ Worse still, its full name is Skidbrook cum Saltfleet. What a very different world we could’ve lived in, eh? “Honey, I’m off to Shit Stream cum Saltfleet!” Quite. Sherborne Lane in London was once named ‘Schitburne Lane,’ referring to the nearby cesspits. Over time, it became Shit-burulane and Shite-burn Lane. Shite… burn. Hate it when that happens…

There are also some lost swear words, too. ‘Swyve’ once was popular and meant, ‘to copulate with.’ It’s even used in The Canterbury Tales. ‘If that I may, yon wench will I swyve.’ Indeed. I’m not entirely sure if the ‘wench’ here is indeed a hooker or ‘a young girl.’ Could be both, one assumes…

And here’s something, too. Have you ever heard of the grawlix? It’s a cluster of typographical symbols often seen in comic books and in newspapers, used as a substitute for bad language. You’ve all seen them, right? “Holy @#$%&! Batman!” I’m sure I heard Robin say that once. We have Mort Walker to thank for this word. Mort Walker. I miss people being named Mort. Better days, better days…

I am a prune. Although everyone, me included, is prone to swearing, it’s not something I like hearing, especially on the bus home from work. Hint, hint. I try not to do it and I’d rarely do it at someone. Unless they really, really deserve it. Like that guy who once pushed me onto a road full of fast moving traffic. That really happened, by the way. What a total @#$%&!. I don’t like hearing it in public and those who know me have rarely heard me cuss. It’s why I love the anonymity the internet affords me…

So, what are my thoughts on swearing? It’s fascinating, but, it’s not for me. I prefer to leave that shit alone…

But what are your thoughts on swearing, readers?

Ciao :)(:


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post. You can leave a comment and/or like this post below, or by clicking the title on the top of this post if you are on the ‘Archives’ page. Likes and follows greatly appreciated. Thanks.


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The Indelible Life of Me
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