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Sunday, June 19, 2011

The end of the swear word

Some of you are old enough to remember the first time ‘bloody’ was used on Australian radio. I could stand correction on this, but I think it was a Saturday night reading of the Nino Culotta tale, They're a Weird Mob. It was a story of migrants first experiencing Australia in the 1950s. As it turns out, Nino Culotta didn’t exist, as it was a pseudonym used by John O’Grady to give authenticity to the novel, but let me not get side-tracked immediately about its positive effect on traditional Australian society in understanding the post-war migrant experience.

    Since then, all the other English language swear words have been introduced to live radio and TV, following hard on the heels of exposure in novels and movies. I mean, ALL. Some media are still coy about allowing them, and that strange paradox in US culture often has them bleeped out so many times in a single sentence that you have little idea exactly what they’re saying. Not that you can’t guess in most cases....

    There are now no swear-words that can’t be heard on TV or on the net, on FaceBook, blogs or Twitter, or in news articles. The school playground is full of them; kids aged from 5 to 18. The main street echoes with them, especially from people emerging from various places of conviviality and refreshment. What would stand-up comedians these days do without these words?

    The only limits, in fact, are self or family imposed, except in Victoria where they’re going to try to police it. I won’t say ‘good luck with that one’ because I think it’s a terrible stick to give any police officer to beat someone about the head with, (only metaphorically speaking, I hope). For example, what’s blasphemy for one person is simply satisfying cussing for another.

    But here’s what I find interesting. Unless you’ve been living in a sheltered workshop, the limit of shockability of all swear words has been reached. People will go on and on using the ‘outrageous’ ones, but already they’ve become tedious. The more they’re used, the less literary or artistic punch they have.

    Look, I ain’t against swearing per se. God knows I’ve used the entire range on offer under some circumstances, and I do believe in the fundamental truth that the bloke who swore at his neighbour instead of smashing his head with a club was indeed one of the founders of civilisation. If you’re the ****** ****** who cuts in on us and nearly ******-well causes a ****** car acci******dent, I’m not beyond a bit of unimaginative but highly gratifying expletive in preference to beating you up. Or getting beaten up by you, as the case may be. More likely the latter these days.  

    All I am saying is that human beings are going to have to get genuinely creative again in writing, film-making, and communicating with each other. No-one can invent a new swear word. Shock comes from an attack on the traditionally sacred or an indulgence in the sincerely profane, one way or the other.

    It’s all been done as far as cussing is concerned. The swear words now in vogue can be reported creatively, but it’s rapidly getting harder and harder for any self-respecting writer to use them artistically. Their mind-numbing repetitiveness must now leave the door wide open to invoking new imagination and invention in communication. Let's see who the truly creative people are going to be.

    Time to stop being lazy ****s FFS!  :) 


  1. I'm a bit worried that this posting is a challenge..

  2. It would be for you, Julie, but then you've led a very sheltered existence, haven't you? Barring your hippie days, i.e. :)


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