Swearing: what’s REALLY in a word?

Swearing: what's really in a word?With the election for mayor coming up in Toronto, Canada on October 27th, there has been not only all the usual hype you would expect but even more of a brou-ha-ha caused by Rob Ford‘s (the incumbent) sad diagnosis of a colon tumor and his swift replacement by his brother, Doug.

Rob Ford is known for everything from doing crack cocaine to being a good mayor. [Read more…]

Want to swear but don’t dare? Here’s how to do it

Want to swear but don't dare? Here's how to do itI’ve just been looking up the origins of the word f*ck  and it seems it goes back at least  to around 1500 AD when it was taken from Germanic and Scandinavian words meaning, well, to f*ck.

Some say its origins go back even further than that. Pretty impressive for one 4-letter word to keep shocking little old ladies for the best part of 10 centuries.

But of course, in polite social company we can’t use the word. In polite writing company, like here, I bashfully insert an asterisk to show my respect to the nay-sayers even though you need to have fewer brain cells than an amoeba to not know what I’m talking about.

What do we really mean by “swear words?”

These words fall into two categories, as far as I can see it.

Category one, is blasphemous words which are based on religion, and to me these are no-nos not because they are particularly offensive, necessarily, but because they may offend people who have stronger, or different, religious views from your own. I suppose it’s OK to talk about something being a “damned” nuisance, but when it begins to involve God, Allah, Jesus and others that’s a whole different ballgame.

Category two, is just plain words which have come to mean very rude things like f*ck and c*nt as well as references to various other bodily parts and activities. And this is where we do have some room for manoeuvre.

So: how can we gain similar momentum from other words and body parts?

For example, what’s the difference between an *sshole and a nostril, in terms of basic realities? Both discharge rather unpleasant bodily fluids. But how often have you heard an insult that goes, “what a nasty little nostril you are.”

Let’s get more specific here. Normal nostril discharge not enough? Try, “stuff that up your bloated sinuses.” Also, “you’re as much use as a bunged-up nostril with nothing to blow into.”

A good start. Now let’s now look at some more  terms

Baldock. The name of a delightful town in Hertfordshire, England, which unfortunately sounds like the description of an old horse’s anus. As in “you ridiculous old baldock.”

Bar Steward. This one has been around for generations but covers up for people too shy too shy to talk about b*stards. It gets the point over, though.

Bleedin’. Adjective often used by London (England) Cockneys, notably dropping the end “g,” to emulate “bloody.” Am I missing something here, or what’s the difference?

Castration et al. This tops “ball breaker” because it’s a about removal, not mere vandalism. Hence – “you’re a real castrating little snit (see below), aren’t you?”

Crapulent. According to Dictionary.com it means sick from gross excess in eating and drinking. Hence – “you make me feel utterly crapulent.”

Crunt. As in “you putrid, awful, miserable crunt…” hinting at the original word but, even having wrapped it up in appropriate adjectives and thrown in a extra letter, no-one is going to misunderstand what you mean.

Darn, darned, darn it. Oh, please. Is anyone going to hang you by the trollocks** if you’re too feeble even to use a sewing term as a swear word? ZZZzzzzzz.

Doo–doo. Am not sure whether modest understatement is a fashion now or if it has been that way for a while, but talking about being “in deep doo-doo” leaves no-one in any doubt that you actually mean sh*t. It may be cheesy, but it avoids offending Auntie Beryl.

Feck. An Irish term which dilutes, but means, the dreaded f*ck. Cute, and effective at times.

FFS. Internet-speak for For-F*ck’s-Sake, but so abbreviated avoids the use of the F-word and doesn’t fool anyone.

Flaming. Uncomplimentary adjective popular in Australia and New Zealand, so I’m told, no doubt due to the Antipodeans’ fondness for overcooking meat on barbecues.

Fricking. Alternatively term for you-know-what. Sounds like an elaborate hand-sewing technique with about as much swear-power.

Micturate. Now here’s a new one for you all … it’s fancy medical speak for the verb to p*ss. Hence, “micturate off” and “I really was micturated.”

Nitwit. Noun referring to the nit, the larva of a head louse. On the understanding that nits are pretty small, so are their brains, hence the word.

OMG, as in Oh My Gosh. OK, I know it’s wrong to involve God in our written rants, but who the f*ck is Gosh?

Poo, poop, etc. Kiddie-talk for sh*t. Come on, now! Get over it.

Ruddy, for bloody. Very 19th and 20th century Britain, but who do you think you’re fooling?

Shite. Oh, how I love this one! No need to explain its derivation but somehow this has a more commanding feel to it than its original version.

Snit. See Castration above. Much as the word is ostensibly meaningless, would you like to be called a “nasty little snit?” Neither would I. Especially if castration were to be involved.

Trollocks. ** A compound term meaning that your perception of a situation is even more disdainful than were you to call it b*ll*cks. “What a load of trollocks – that’s like b*ll*cks, only there’s three of them.”

Twit. Noun, popular in the UK for some years now, suggesting someone whose brain power is a couple of chicken nuggets short of a Happy Meal. And it suggests tw*t without saying it.

That’s just a few for starters. What are your favorite non-swear words? Please share them with us in the comments below…

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Swearing: should we accept or ignore it in our blogging?

Are you guilty of using a foul word or two in your blogposts, emails, comments, Facebook/Twitter posts et al? Do you think they enhance what you’ve written – or do they make you look foul-mouthed?

I know I am guilty of using words that I shouldn’t. Many of my articles, posts, comments etc. are peppered with (usually mild) profanities which tend to roll off the virtual tongue quite easily – or at least they do if you are, as I am, surrounded by lippy young people who fire off swear words if they so much as misplace a sandwich or find a hair extension out of place. As such, their use does have a nasty habit of becoming second nature. And I know that’s no excuse…

There are many people out there – and not just older folks – who find swearing objectionable, and you can’t blame them. Mostly they have been brought up to believe that swearing and cursing are disrespectful to the majority of people. My parents put across, to me, the diktat that the use of swear words merely demonstrated one’s ignorance and lack of vocabulary (mind you, that all went out of the window when one of them stepped on a live wasp or slammed their finger in a car door.)

Two categories – religious, and vulgar

As far as I can see it, swearwords in our modern age fall into two categories: 1) religious cursing, and 2) vulgarisms.

Religious cursing is very sensitive for many people and it’s something I try to avoid – don’t you? But what about words like “damn,” damned,” or “damning?” Despite those appearing largely innocuous these days, should someone wish to take it to the limit, there could be a religious connotation here.

And that doesn’t even begin to infiltrate what some people write using terms that may offend a whole host of religions from Christian to Judaism to Islam to who knows how many more. So is it appropriate to use religiously orientated swear words in our writing? In my humble opinion, absolutely no way.

OK, how about the serious vulgarisms?

Here’s where we enter relatively uncharted waters.  I remember once asking my father where he thought the word f*ck came from, and he – as a veteran of WW2 – trotted out the explanation that it’s an acronym standing for “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.” Nice one. But is it true? According to Wikipedia, the origins of the F-word are vague… so I doubt that my Pop’s answer was correct, convenient though it may have seemed at the time. Snopes.com seems to agree with me on that one.

And then there is the ultimate vulgarism (or at least so most of us think) – c*nt.  Where does this awful, horrible word come from? Wikipedia, bless them, have explored this one to a helpful extent and say, “the earliest citation of this usage in the 1972 Oxford English Dictionary, c 1230, refers to the London street known as Gropecunt Lane. Scholar Germaine Greer has said that “it is one of the few remaining words in the English language with a genuine power to shock.”

Maybe it’s the connotation, but maybe, too, it’s the sound of the word. Germaine was right. Would you use this word in any of your writing? OK, but there are lesser swearwords that express our thoughts so well, and they don’t resonate with quite the same impact.

Does swearing actually have a legitimate place in our writing?

This is where it gets a bit more interesting. Swearing, whether the purists like it or not, is a very common element in our every-day parlance. It’s part of our modern culture.

So, do we – as people charged with reflecting realistically this modern culture in our writing – pronounce judgment and exclude swearing as naughty, smutty, dirty and undesirable? Should we adopt the nanny-like stance of television drama in which even evil villains, murderers, drug dealers, etc. only say a mere “bloody” here and a “sh*t” there?

Or should we incorporate the swearing that people use in everyday speech, into the writing we do in our blogs, comments, posts, articles and more?

I’d love to know how you guys feel about this, so please jot down your comments here.

Brush up your writing, whether you swear or not:

“Super Speeches”…how to write and deliver them well
“How To Write About Yourself”…how to make the most of yourself, whatever you need to write
“Banana Skin Words and how not to slip on them”…over 1,500 spelling and grammar tips to perfect your written English