Excuse me but I won't be asterisking this one. Don't read it if you are offended by strong language.
We haven't talked about this subject for a while. I notice that there has been an attempt to censure Gordon Ramsay because a recent programme included nearly 200 examples of the F-word. It got me thinking. Do 200 fucks in an hour change the status of the word?
I have had a few eureka moments over the years on this subject:
1. Aged about seven I asked my Dad what the writing on the swimming pool cubicle wall meant. 'Daddy, what's a baster?' I could tell from the pause that I had now accessed a really good thing to say when I wanted attention.
2. A plumber, called to my office in about 1980, pronounced a verdict on a radiator valve, 'The fucking fucker's fucking fucked.' We were in no doubt what he meant and wondered if we could spend a whole day communicating only with profanities and an occasional definite or indefinite article.
3. At theological college our football team once had a player sent off for bad language but, in his defence, he'd spent the previous years before ordination undercover with the drug squad.
4. My ordination. I get very peeved when people apologise for swearing in front of me. It is one of the reasons why I find a dog collar changes everything and prefer to avoid it. I take very seriously the charge that we should be slow to take offence so nobody should ever have to apologise for treating me like they treat others.
5. I recall from the early 1990s when Paul Gascoigne was dismissed from a football pitch for using foul and abusive language. He complained about the referee, 'That wasn't swearing at him; it was just swearing.'
6. A mother I overheard, dragging her six year year old round a supermarket about 1997, told him, 'Don't you ever fucking talk to me like that again.'
Enough eurekas. What would Archimedes have shouted today? Well he would, wouldn't he? Almost certainly.
The Bible has a lot to say about not swearing but it almost always refers to oaths - the preferred way of life for the Christian is to let your yes be yes and your no be no. No mantra or occasion should change that.
The bit of the Bible that those of us who aren't that bothered about bad language need to get to grips with is Ephesians 4:29, 'Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths but only what is helpful for building others up...' So even if we feel an occasional expletive isn't the end of the world we need to gauge the audience. The nature of an internet audience is such that I needed to offer the warning at the start of the post as I know it will be read by the offended and unoffended simultaneously. It may not build everyone up. You will find the word pisseth in the Authorised Version. When Paul counts everything rubbish save that of knowing the Gospel it would be as good a translation as any to say he counts it all crap.
It has been an interesting season for language. Carol Thatcher lost her job at the BBC for the use of the word golliwog. Quite right too. We've been educating on this subject for over twenty years now. She should have known better. Prince Charles got away with calling an Asian Sooty, mainly because the guy himself took it in such good spirit. These days I may write fuck but always asterisk ni**er. Race has become the language monitor.
I'd call someone a silly bugger but not a silly c**t. Is a tosser better than a wanker? Can't believe I wrote that but do have a care about what I'm trying to discuss.
I'm playing a parental advisory CD right now. 'Parental advisory' is usually taken to mean we don't play it in front of our parents. My mother's deaf and my father's only one letter different. My mother-in-law is delightfully liberal these days. So I would.
Language changes, moves on, evolves. Teenagers develop their own. We don't get it. That's the point. We can be insulted without knowing. Those of us who say strewth, blimey, flipping, sugar and crikey are all swearing in a way. Try gladioli or Falcon Camps if you really need a substitute.
So back to the top. The more we use the word fuck the more we downgrade it. It loses its power to offend. I think, because of hanging around with users of fairly industrial language most of my life, I am unoffended but shouldn't simply copy. I need to be very careful who I am speaking to. You?