Lost for words

30 Aug 2018
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A psychotherapist once told me that people need words that they consider "bad", in order to provide some release at times of extreme emotion and anger. An ex-army chaplain, he assured me at the first session that he would not be offended by anything I said. Oddly, I swore very little, if at all, during the sessions. Maybe I needed to feel he was shocked in order for it to work.

Words that were rarely uttered in public are now part of everyday conversation for many of us. I don't swear in public, only at home or in the company of similarly potty-mouthed pals. I find myself quite surprised if a man says he won't swear because I am a lady. If only they knew.

My other half, Spock, returned home on his first leave after joining the navy, and startled his genteel mother on the first morning "What's for breakfast? I'm *******starving". His 90 year old grandad was ex-navy, but even he did not expect "What have you been getting up to, you old w****r."

Today I could walk behind 10 year-olds and hear much the same.

Two things happened recently that got me wondering if casual swearing has reduced the power of such words, when we really need them.

My partner had a disastrous day at a client's factory. His computer packed in, leading to a 3 hour round-trip home to collect another. He shot through the house, effing and blinding. Throughout the day he was muttering to himself. Returning late evening, haggard, he had exhausted his lexicon of bad language, and was reduced to guttural growls and leg-jiggling.

Yesterday, he sent a proposal for some joint financial plans around a group of people we have dealings with. One of these is a deeply unpleasant woman, disliked by all. We all bite our tongues to get her to co-operate.

Within minutes of him sending the round robin, one of the others responded. The title of her mail was an expletive, the same one I uttered upon reading it. He had failed to do as I said, delete the thread of correspondence between myself and my friend. In it, we had exchanged frank views on this other party. I, in particular, had vented, adding comments others in the group had made about her, just for good measure.

When I called Spock to show him, he grasped his head, collapsing into the foetal position on the floor. He had a go at cursing, but it did not help, how could it? Our brains have become immune to the healing power of taboo cursing. There was no comfort to be had. I tried, but ended up giggling hysterically.

So where do we go from here? Do you have any special words that help you in times of crisis? I quite like the American "son of a bitch", but I have not yet tried it out. Maybe rude words in another language would help hit the spot. Ideas please?

Val

A Moodscope member.

A Moodscope member.

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Comments

Sally

Aug. 31, 2018, 5:15 a.m.

Nice blog, Valerie. Interesting,this topic of swearing. I've known people use swearing “well” and “badly”. My mother used to say it indicated a paucity of language if you needed to resort to swear words. Was she right? Rhetorical question to self, really,because I think it rather depends. Swear words can underline, accentuate and even help along meaning. Punchy, unforgettable and well, very apt sometimes too. And funny if used well! In literature, Glaswegian, for example, almost a must! BUT : they can also be used “badly”, to abuse, control and intimidate. I have been on the receiving end of this most of my life from a family member now gone. Thankfully. Life is more serene for the lack of swearing. And abuse. I had to.laugh when I saw a car yesterday , an MR2. Because in French, if you say the letters and number, it spells “Merde” . Am I right in thinking they’re called something else in France, these cars? Or maybe just not very popular.. “Ruddy, ******, blooming and ****” used to be my limit. Used to be . My language at home or in private is , I admit, now peppered sometimes with expletives of a stronger type. But not spoken AT someone directly. I draw the line at that . About a situation, or, if seething, an individual behind their back. Err..I’m going to be watching MY back as I go around today. Thanks, Valerie . Lots of food for thought. Xx

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Valerie

Aug. 31, 2018, 11:57 a.m.

Hi Sally.I don't agree that swearing indicates a poor grasp of language.My English teacher used to call me her walking dictionary.I love words. I do fully understand though that many people find some words offensive,so I do test the waters first.You can't always tell if people are sweary. In the right circumstances I really enjoy a good cuss,and I am not easily shocked.I am amazed at the outrage expressed when someone uses a 4-letter word on the telly. All manner of horrors and vile attitudes can be screened,as long as no one swears.xx

Jul

Aug. 31, 2018, 5:37 a.m.

Hi Val. Coincidentally (or apropos your blog!) I was telling someone yesterday that I'd heard that when you live in a foreign country, swearing in that country's swear words seem less offensive than swearing in your native tongue.Having been in in France for over a month now, when I think of French swear words of which I know many, having watched numerous telefilm policiers, they just do not have that aggressive connotation to me. I can swear in France out loud and it's pretty meaningless. I am very careful not to swear in France in front of French neighbors obviously but I bet if they swore in English, although it might seem shocking to us, to them, not at all. Julxx

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The Gardener

Aug. 31, 2018, 9:38 a.m.

Jul, I have a book of French synonyms, graded from '3' used in literary works to 1*, for blokes down the pub. I had a book on swearing in 13 languages, but somebody must have nicked it, not apparent in current house move. Also Roman limericks. Bonne journee.

Valerie

Aug. 31, 2018, noon

Hi Jul, My Francophile partner tells me that there is no precise equivalent for F*** in French.Apparently,the word putain,used in the same way,actually means *****.Maybe Gardener can elaborate?

The Gardener

Aug. 31, 2018, 2:31 p.m.

French is a trap for the unwary Chiot is a puppy, I used the feminine, which is to ****, huge mirth from the French, they don't explain, of course. People end phone conversations with 'gros bizoux' a big kiss, but . . . . . . .

The Gardener

Aug. 31, 2018, 2:38 p.m.

Baiser can also be to kiss - but 'il est mal baise' he needs to get laid, and 'c'est une mal baisee' is she's a frustrated old cow. Baise bien is a good f**k - so, enough I think, on a family programme. If you lock f**k up in a good dictionary you will get loads of naughty words, including putain.

Bearofliddlebrain

Aug. 31, 2018, 5:47 a.m.

Hi Val, I found this funny...but not for the error of Mr. Spock!! Like Sally, above, I never used to swear...so when I did, Mr. Bear knew it was real trouble!! We were brought up with an occasional '**** and blast' but Grandma Bear was quite religious and didn’t like swearing or 'taking the Lord's name....etc'. I have used 'merde', and I’ve made up my own concoctions of foreign-sounding words! Scheitenhausen is one such mixture which really means a house of logs! Baby Bear used to laugh at my saying it and she used it herself. Then she did German at school and realised I was just completely barking! The f word was a no-no. I didn’t hear that until I was about ten, just before I went to senior school. Grandma Bear heard one of my siblings say it and washed his mouth out with a bar of soap. We were all nearly spewing at the thought of what was happening to him and the f word was never repeated...well, not in her presence for a long time anyway! When the special occasion arises I say fuff!! What the fuff? Or 'fuffing stupid eejit' when I’m driving and things look scary wary and there’s an absolute stupid fool in front of me! Oh and I’ve just remembered, when I first started work, there was a woman I worked with whose surname was Kinnell.....that caused uproar in the office every time one of my colleagues would call out her name as an almost swear word....they all used to laugh out loud, especially when they saw my face! I was only seventeen!!!! Such a young Bear!! Hope you and Spock are out of trouble with the womanwhonobodyliked.com! Bear hugs ***

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Valerie

Aug. 31, 2018, 9:38 a.m.

I don't know if you ever watched Father Ted? They used "****",but I am pretty sure that is an actual Irish word. I used to find the sitcom Porridge irritating,having the characters say "Naff off".I think it was made-up word put in by the writers.I would rather they had just said nothing,or maybe something very mild like "****** off". ***

Bearofliddlebrain

Aug. 31, 2018, 6:02 a.m.

Hijacking your blog today to say what a lovely blog Dragonfky wrote yesterday and waving Bear paws to Ratg...hoping today is better than yesterday and Sunday will soon be here and you’ll be happier by Monday morning. Also, good thoughts to TG for daughter’s birthday today. Bear xx

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Dragonfly

Aug. 31, 2018, 6:22 p.m.

Thank you Bear :) xx

Oli

Aug. 31, 2018, 6:15 a.m.

Thank you Valerie! A good swear can be cathartic. And it can be bonding too -- when someone tells you something awful -- and being able to say, "F* that sh*t!" is about the only thing that will do. For what it's worth I've heard neuroscientists say that swearing demonstrates well how a lot of brain regions work together for us: the processes of word retrieval and assessment, and expression of emotional state, and judging if the words will land right with the people who'll hear you. Also heard that when chimpanzees are taught sign language it's not too long before they start to swear! (I hope that's true!) I can be a bit sweary, sometimes too much and I'll reign it in. @Sally I don't think that swearing indicates a lack of vocabulary or language skills -- I've heard that said too but it sounds like a myth to me because even thinking about it quickly yields many examples of articulate people who will also swear in certain contexts. And just something that tickled me: subversive cross stitch: http://subversivecrossstitch.com/blog/

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Sally

Aug. 31, 2018, 7:31 a.m.

Thanks Oli. That’s very interesting. I too hope you’re right about chimpanzees!!! Yes, I agree with you, I can also think of examples that contradict the paucity of language theory... I LOVE the subversivecrosssticitch site! Thanks!

Valerie

Aug. 31, 2018, 9:42 a.m.

Hi Oli,Oh I just love this link! I used to love embroidery as a kid,this might just get me back into it. A friend worked with chimps (the ones in the tea ads) and they do indeed"say" vulgar things. Did you see that lady parrot effing and blinding at the fireman trying to rescue her off a roof? Adorable.

Valerie

Aug. 31, 2018, 12:04 p.m.

P.S.Ollie,I am interpreting from what you say that swearing could actually keep my brain active and maybe help avoid dementia? That's f*****g awesome!

The Gardener

Aug. 31, 2018, 2:46 p.m.

Is subversive crossstitch something like rude Scrabble? Please enlighten. Play on words with 'tart' can get you into hot water. Enough, allez au turbin (slang for work, slog), would love a swearing parrott.

Oli

Aug. 31, 2018, 5:51 p.m.

Gardener, if you copy/paste the last line of my post it's a website. Or just google "subversive cross stitch" :-) // and @Val, the parrot sounds funny but I haven't seen that clip!

Mortimer

Aug. 31, 2018, 6:42 a.m.

Growing up and working on farms exposes one to life in the raw very quickly - including those folk that literally swore every other word. Which one rapidly became inured to, realising how silly it sounded, how ineffective it was, and how as a method of communication it had little value. And left you with nothing in the armoury for when you needed it. As one does need "bad" words, it's just in my experience they can just be, echoing blogs above, "almost" swear words - sound-alikes that are relatively inoffensive but get the message across, whether to a recalcitrant bit of machinery, a sheep determined to go the wrong direction, or to the atmosphere on once again dinging one's thumb with the hammer. And, in some strange way, perhaps because one is controlling one's anger enough to control one's language, seemingly more effective. Coincidentally also essential whilst working with heavy horses, as we do, to remain calm and controlled - it is dangerous to suddenly let loose a rant of expletives even if you have the thick end of a ton of Shire horse on your foot.

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Sally

Aug. 31, 2018, 7:39 a.m.

Interesting thoughts, Charlie the Farmer!

Valerie

Aug. 31, 2018, 9:45 a.m.

My *** Charlie,you must be a zen master to have a huge horse stand on your foot and keep your cool.I came out with a few choice words when I dropped a bit of the hoover on my foot this morning xx

Sophie

Aug. 31, 2018, 8:51 a.m.

F*****g-S******g-B*********g-S*******s! You can all F*** Off! I find strings of expletives (when I’m alone) can really do the trick. And there is *nothing* lacking in my vocabulary. A rich command of one’s language is a wonderful thing. Furthermore, swearing helps us to endure pain - we can take more pain and for longer. It doesn’t always work though. When my mood is very low or disturbingly elevated, I don’t feel like swearing. If you’re not into swearing, metaphors also help us to endure pain. I think that’s why we all have some version of ‘The Black Dog’. Mine is a desert with a deep, deep well. I imagine how far away I am from the well because I really, really don’t want to fall down it again and have to climb out - it’s too hard. I’ve got Multiple Sclerosis. Many people who have a chronic illness think of it as a pilgrimage - it’s the journey that counts, not the destination. It’s all about living your life, not putting it off. You rest when you need to and you get the most out of life when you can. I’m on my way down from the most troubling period of elevated mood I’ve ever experienced. That’s why I’m writing all this. It’s a thing I do when I’m high. No amount of metaphors or swearing could have helped me then. It’s the people who care, either professionally or because they love me, who got me through. Thanks to you, Val, and Mr Spock, and all you wonderful Moodscopers, for reminding me that when times are tough it’s the caring people who matter, people who will support you and be with you- even when you’re dealing with the most excruciatingly embarrassing moment or the worst mistake of your life. Thanks Val, you are brilliant and funny, and thanks to everyone who has commented, who ever comments or bravely writes a blog. I always read everything but I hardly ever comment. Have a ******* marvellous day! Love Sophie x

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Sophie

Aug. 31, 2018, 9:42 a.m.

PS apologies for the blue sign-off. I should have remembered the asterisks ******!

Valerie

Aug. 31, 2018, 9:52 a.m.

Hope it's gentle come-down Sophie,not a plummet.You sound like a woman after my own heart.Do join in more often-I don't want to be the only foul-mouthed broad on here.You are among friends you know,don't forget it.Big Hugs.***

Sophie

Aug. 31, 2018, 10:04 a.m.

Aw, thanks Val, sniff, brought a little tear to my eye and a smile too. I will try ***

The Gardener

Aug. 31, 2018, 9:10 a.m.

Great Val, When I worked as a freelance journalist the Fruit Trades Journal asked me to find out why there were so few women working in Covent Garden Market. It was great fun. First, the salesMEN said women could not get up early !!! (market started 4 a.m). Next, the swearing was unsuitable for delicate female ears. Rubbish, I knew more swear words at the village school when I was 7. The only knew one swear word, beginning with F, but they used it all the time, SO boring. Sophie, never found swearing helped.

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Valerie

Aug. 31, 2018, 9:55 a.m.

Hi TG,I went to a very proper girl's school,where filthy conversations and smuttiness were rife (at least among my set,the ones eating chips and smoking behind the bike shed) The girls from the nearby convent were even worse,a rich source of dirty jokes,told to them by the nuns! xx

The Gardener

Aug. 31, 2018, 9:14 a.m.

Charlie the Farmer and animals. I think I learned a few new expletives when Romulus, also a shire, leaned his full weight on the blacksmith. And losing your cool with animals is useless - because the stubborn ones become more stubborn (can't decide which are worse, pigs or sheep.) And nervous ones are even more affected - when we ran a livery stables and a horse needed attention the vets would not come if the owner was there, they were perfect pests. I love old words like 'besom' applied to women. xx Val

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Valerie

Aug. 31, 2018, 10:01 a.m.

Is that the same word that means a sweeping brush,like a witches broomstick? Someone called me a comely wench once,and I found myself simpering and fluttering at him. Dog trainers tell us that there is no use shouting at them,keep your voice very low.They claim it's more effective.I find that nonsense.Shouting like a fishwife and giving food bribes is all that works with my hooligans. xx

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The Gardener

Aug. 31, 2018, 2:49 p.m.

Has many meanings, but pejorative allied to witches. In a Dorothy Sayers novel a malicious gossip was referred to a 'catamaran' I think.

The Gardener

Aug. 31, 2018, 2:56 p.m.

One could be flattered by the nice old-fashioned 'comely wench' but I think the comely is synonymous with 'buxom' and the wench generally of the servant fraternity, often a barmaid, don't know what you were up to Valerie to earn that epithet!

Michael

Aug. 31, 2018, 10:23 a.m.

My English teacher told me that swearing meant a lack of an adjective - trouble was, I didn’t, at that age, know what an adjective was. Not so much a word but a phrase I quite like is when I think someone is lying to me I will often say, ‘I believe you when you say that now’. The emphasis being on the now.

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Valerie

Aug. 31, 2018, 2 p.m.

How do they react-does it unsettle them? I might try that,it takes some power away from them I guess?

The Gardener

Aug. 31, 2018, 2:58 p.m.

Adjectives take me back to parsing of sentences, do schools do that now?

Ach UK

Aug. 31, 2018, 12:17 p.m.

Lots lovely replies to your blog Val. Thank you. SWEARING. I have thought that swearing is: " The reflex audible expression of an urgent feeling which the brain utilises as an immediate alarm call before rational response allows a more eloquent verbal clarifying explanation ". It's the " burglar alarm " or "police sirens " reflex response of the speech centre when we perceive danger or threat. Lol, like jerking our hand away when we inadvertently touch something hot. ?? trouble is we have learned to employ it too frequently and freely and thus it can lose its potency. I think it can be perceived as a bit like " crying wolf". I'm not swearing as much at the moment, which I think is because I'm coping better, handling problems more appropriately without getting so personally involved and generally on a more even keel with less worries pursueing me. Lol long may it continue. . But when stressed I very freely employ quite a vocabulary of " naughty" words. . . . and someone very sensibly suggested I try and find a less obviously offensive word to employ, so " biscuits " in front of the children or elders . . :)). Perhaps we should put "Swearing" as a word on the Mood scope scale. . . Think I'd get a 1 today. XX Ach.

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Valerie

Aug. 31, 2018, 2:09 p.m.

Hi Ach, Thinking about it,I am most likely to swear when on a fairly even keel,or hyper with anxious energy.When I am very low,there is too much animal vitality about the words for me to reach for them,just too exhausting.xx

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Nicco

Aug. 31, 2018, 6:09 p.m.

Thanks for this blog, Valerie, which has had me fairly chortling which is just what I needed today. I must admit I could probably out-do the most hardened navi or trooper in the swearing department & have always maintained I could never get through life without a bl**dy good swear! If I can't think of sufficient ones, I make em up. I find they work best for me when strung together. I have, however, felt very badly about myself for this - not that I swear outside, only in private to myself or those I live with who understand & usually when under extreme stress or frustrarion. But this blog has shown me that it's actually ok as long as not being offensive to others. I have used 'replacements' when out in public such as, 'bill hooks', 'fudge cakes' & 'sugar puffs' - I tried using these substitutes at home but, while it seems to start off well, it doesn't seem to hit the mark so ends up as something like, "oh fudge cakes... & bl**dy f*cking old *rseholes"! I came across a hilarious book called 'creative cursing' that had me roaring & streaming with tears of laughter in the bookshop. It's divided into 3 sections with flaps you dip into anywhere like a lucky dip under each flap to get the string of three words which, when put together, can be so funny! I do sometimes swear in French or Flemish (my mother was Belgian). 'Nom d'un chat et d'un chien' or 'balakas' are good ones. And I think Shakespeare's 'pish and tish' is great. I'll never forget my daughter stamping her foot at me in frustration over something when she was about 3yrs old. She yelled, "you, you pontificate panfaffer, you"! That's what I call good creative cursing! Thanks again for the giggles & memories.xx

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Valerie

Aug. 31, 2018, 7:55 p.m.

Hi NIcco, Good to hear you can turn the air blue too.Your daughter sounds a feisty little madam,is she still like that? That expression sounds like something from Blackadder! xx

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Nicole

Aug. 31, 2018, 11:22 p.m.

I read this (yes just getting caught up on emails) and had to respond. I am American, and when I had children, I tried and failed to stop cursing. I simply could not break the habit! And, of course, my children learned the words. Instead, I tried to teach them that it was not acceptable for children to REPEAT bad words, but when they got to be teenagers I would permit them to say the words, since I would hardly be able to prevent them from saying them at that point anyway! My oldest is now ten, and she prefers to say "fudge" than the inevitable "f-word" I know she will start to use to fit in and feel "cool." But I've been blessed with good children! :)

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Valerie

Sept. 1, 2018, 8:46 a.m.

When my son was very young he went to a nursery school,run by two ex-nuns.One day they asked to see me to discuss my son swearing.Imagining the worst (his father had a volatile temper) I started gabbling that we had builders working in the house (all lies) he must have overheard them.In the end it was pretty mild,he had said "titty". x

Matthew

Sept. 1, 2018, 5:14 a.m.

I have worked on my language to avoid polluting it with words that add nothing. So I don't swear any more. It isn't necessary or helpful. Life is better without profanity or crude language. Better for me and better for those around me. Foul language is not good communication.

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Valerie

Sept. 1, 2018, 8:53 a.m.

That can't have been easy Matthew,Do you still swear in your thoughts,say if you dropped and smashed something of value? I always respect other folk's boundaries,so don't swear unless they are the same as me.To me,some of the biggest pollutants come into millions of homes,well before the watershed,with no bad language.Things like EastEnders,all about aggression,back-stabbing,narcissism.

Molly

Sept. 1, 2018, 11:55 a.m.

Only just read this Valerie, bit behind with things, due to some other stuff I have had to deal with, but your blog did make me smile, a nice light hearted blog. Swearing ! I swear all of the time, I try not to do it in front of elders !! But I have a new word which is BASKET - it somehow has the same satisfaction as B****** lol - so if my husband beats me at a game - I say "you basket" and he finds it quite amusing rather than offended, yes I know I am a bit odd. Not managed to read all of the replies here but I did see your reply about the two ex nuns and the word 'titty' - another smile here - thank you xx

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