(First published in The Guardian)
The publishing of an updated edition of Roger’s Profanisaurus, Viz’s invaluable lexicon of rudeness, confirms the tribute paid by Ade Edmondson’s Von Richthofen to Blackadder. “How lucky you English are to find zer toilet so amusing. For us, it is a mundane function. For you – zer basis for an entire culture.”
Indeed, it’s a culture that’s evolved to a dizzyingly baroque level in the Profanisaurus. Who would have guessed, for instance, that “vote for Tony Blair” is now defined as “To rush enthusiastically into the cubicle expecting big things, only to get a pathetic little fart?” If you want to know what Ghandi’s flip-flops, Bungle’s finger and licking a nine volter allude to, then buy the Profanisaurus and laugh till snot dribbles down your lips.
However, cheap viagra the Profanisaurus, rich as it is in additions to the mother tongue, represents what you might call the maximalist tendency in obscenity. Even now, there is a great deal to be said for the minimalist tendency – the cluster of b, f and c-words which which have served us faithfully for centuries.
I once swore for a living. I wrote an iconoclastic column called Mr Agreeable for Melody Maker, It was honest work – brutally honest, in fact. Each week, I poured abuse on pop and rock stars like cow excrement from a turret. From Sting and U2 to losers like Top and Northside, to the pitifully past it like David Gedge, none were spared. The column was very popular. I liked to think this was because of my elegantly scornful turn of phrase and withering puns (“De La Soul? Dull Arseholes, more like!”). However, I realised to my initial dismay that people were only reading it for the swearing. Admittedly there wasn’t much to read in the column but swearing – the column was strafed with asterisks. And therein lay the success – the catharsis of invective, the unquenchable thirst for vituperation, the endless joy of shouting “Bollocks!” It certainly worked for me – during the several years I wrote the column, I never once lost my temper. I had an escape valve.
Today, I buy viagra commence the day with a ten-minute session of Primal Swear Therapy in order to becalm myself and ready myself for the day’s rigours. It’s as futile to repress or forbid foul language as it is to repress or forbid breaking wind. We are steeped in the stuff – from the bell hooks and Shere Hite of high literature to the prole-ish world of football (Danny Shittu, Kuntz, Arce, Windass, Dou Dou), it is ingrained.
Debates about the morality of swearing are generally futile – the supposed misogyny of the c-word, for instance. Granted, in America it is deployed as an ultra-strength alternative to “bitch”. In Britain, however, it has no such connotations. Rather, along with the b and f words, which swear-ologist Geoffrey Hughes categorises as “voiced bilabial plosives and frictives”, it’s a word ideally phonetically shaped for emotional release, as is the word “a-choo!” to sneezing.
Swearing was not invented by Shaun Ryder. Chaucer deemed it big and viagra online clever to swear copiously in The Miller’s Tale, while Ben Johnson’s plays are rife with phrases like “fackins” and “Shit on your heads”. A 1601 parliamentary ban on coarse language, however, led to the apparent extinction of swearing, with the sole exception of Robert Browning’s use of the word “twat” in 1848’s Pippa Passes – he thought it was a nun’s garment. Come the groundbreaking Lady Chatterley case, however, in which the prosecutor, brandishing the expletive-ridden novel, asked, “Is this the sort of book you would allow your wives and servants to read?” a new permissive era was supposedly born.
Swearing, however, remains taboo. In EastEnders recently, a character stopped herself saying “taking the p-” – as if realising she was on a soap opera and replaced it with “taking liberties”. It is considered wrong, or inexpedient, to swear in front of your boss, parents, the children. But face it, there are times when the fuckers get your nerves. So swear – however, with discretion. A bodily function it may be but public swearing is as deplorable as public urinating. I would suggest that when driven to distraction and deadly expletive build-up kicks in, simply excuse yourself from the room. Create a euphemism. Tell your Mum, kids, or employer that your are “just going out to season the air”, perhaps. Then step out to your gazebo, potting shed or even broom cupboard and bellow, profanely and profusely. Better out than in. And swear properly. “Shoot” or “Fishsticks!” won’t do the job. Nor will whimsical infantilisms like “bottom”, “poo” or the dreadful “wee”. It’s arse, shit and piss, you hear? And they must be delivered with unbridled gusto. It has been argued, by Lenny Bruce, by Stephen Fry, by the makers of South Park (who deliberately used the word “shit” 162 times in a recent episode) that swearwords can and will, through repeated use, lose their potency, much as “damn” did.
Fortunately, this shows no sign of happening and it’s good that it does not. We need good, crisp, potent swear words and if that means sustaining a culture of mild hypocrisy, censorship and repression then so be it. The toxins of everyday life we absorb cannot properly be expelled with obsolete, once-considered-naughty phrases like “Odds bodkins” or “dash your eyes”. Fact: in the Japanese language there are no swear words. The result? Kamikaze, Hari Kiri and gameshows involving snapping turtles and exposed genitals. This cannot happen here. Long, therefore, may swearing be considered debased, disgusting, evidence of a poor vocabulary and all the rest of the fucking bullshit the Christian right drivels at us. Bring on the asterisks!