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November 8, 2016

I see that a new report is out which says that in Britain women now swear more than men. Yes indeed; it seems that women say fuck, or forms thereof, 546 times for every million words spoken, while we chaps can manage only 540. Well done the ladies there!

But swearing generally has become more widespread, and less offensive. Only the other day I was in the kitchen with my eldest daughter (19) and she dropped a piece of toast and said ‘For fuck’s sake’. I just laughed. That expression is now so popular it has its own acronym in textspeak. I’ve always thought it was a funny expression. My favourite ever example of its use occurs in Magnus Mills’ novel The Restraint of Beasts. A team of fencers (not swordfighters; they build fences) run away leaving a job unfinished because it’s too hard and the boss is too scary. They then learn that their next job – in a completely different part of the country – is for the same scary boss. One of them greets this news with the despairing remark: ‘For fucking fuck’s fucking sake’.

My only worry is, if swearing becomes too widespread, will it cease to be funny?

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  1. Simon Carter permalink

    There is a cadence to proper Lord Mayoring which can’t be beaten; Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It comes to mind and there was an entire scene in The Wire which only featured the word fuck in all its variants. Keen swearers will break up a three syllable word – “phofuckingtography” – which I thought was called tmesis but is apparently correctly called expletive infixation but that seems like term created to fit a need.

  2. Thanks, Simon – very informative comments as usual.

  3. Simon Carter permalink

    Thank you Brandon! Just out of interest does anyone know who Ada might have been? In the 70s “fucking Ada” was bandied around pretty freely – Ian Dury wrote a song with it as it’s title. Memory suggests that Norah replaced Ada for a short time but both seem to faded away.

  4. As far as I recall it was “fucking Ada” and “bloody Norah” – but I have no idea who they were!

  5. Simon Carter permalink

    Just read the claim that the original Norah was a 17th century servant of the Duke of Wodingtonshire who killed two other servants; one with a kettle and the other with …a stick of celery. How she managed the latter is unfortunately not explained.

  6. Mark Brafield permalink

    I once had to sing in an obscure opera which had been badly translated. At one point, following a particularly horrifying scene we had to sing ‘oh how aw – ful’. We all agreed that this was rather weak and suggestions were sought for a better translation. My favourite by a mile was ‘fuck-ing Ada’ which fitted perfectly and was much more appropriate in the circumstances. Staying on the subject of the word, when I was a student I used to work as a hospital porter (my father being a doctor at Whipps Cross Hospital). the ‘f’ word was used in between every other word, so ‘I think I will have a cup of tea’ became ‘I fucking think I will fucking have a fucking cup of tea’, without a flicker of offence. And on the subject of children swearing, I remember the first time my son used the word, when he was aged around 4. I was supervising bath time and he was gingerly lowering himself into the water. He looked at me very seriously and said ‘it’s fucking cold’. He said it with such sad – eyed sincerity that I could only agree. And then try not to burst out laughing.

  7. Simon Carter permalink

    There is an old joke that goes – Two young lads decide that swearing is a cool thing to do so when their mother asks what they want for breakfast one lad says “I think I’ll have some fucking Coco Pops”. Mother goes berserk, jumps up and cuffs him round the ear and sends him out then turns to the other boy, “What would you like?” He thinks for a second and says “I’m not sure but it certainly won’t be fucking Coco Pops”.

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