Tuesday, 13 July 2010
A couple of times, recently, I got told off for swearing. It wasn't actually swearing though - I'd used the word "wanker" - so in the parlance of the anti-swearing brigade that should be called "bad language" I suppose.
I have to admit I always found people who go "tut tut" or "language please", or suck their teeth on hearing a swear word slightly comical. "Wash your mouth out with soap", they say, and I just want to say "oh do get out more".
Because that is exactly the point -the very people who are "ever so sensitive" when it comes to swearing - and do I detect a slight Northern bias there - blithely overlook the sordidness of a Friday night culture in all its obscene glory - mooning blokes, obscenely dressed women, drunken behaviour of the most objectionable and shameless sort etc etc. -but say "Fuck", and they react like lace-capped spinsters in a Victorian village. Indeed I find there is something weirdly camp in their utter shockedness, their hurt and pained looks, and their slightly pitying but ultimately forgiving look.
Coming back to the Northern topic, I wonder if there is something in Methodist circles that explicitly forbids swearing. I suppose there must be, but I don't understand the reason. "Don't use the name of the Lord in vain" - yes from a religious point that makes sense (this also exists in Catholicism) and I do understand that religious people don't want to listen to "In God's name..." or "For Christ's sake". But that is something entirely different from saying "shit", or "fuck". Maybe it is a way of expressing to the world how refined you are. That you take offence at coarse language. I think that comes closer to the truth, and also explains the slightly comical- old-maidish impression those people make. One feels a bit sorry for them because their ruse of fake sophistication didn't work.
What I'm not so keen on, though, is their assumption that everybody shares those values, may just have temporarily forgotten, and therefore needs "reminding", and if that doesn't help, a firm telling-off. It' sno longer common practice to go round telling people what's what in your books, and assume other will take kindly to your viewpoint.
My own background for example (Southern, Catholic, middle-class) does not negatively sanction swearing/bad language. I don't therefore quite see why I should adhere to "standards" that are neither commonly accepted nor at all aspirational. I presume they would say: I feel offended by swearing and bad language. Well, apart from thinking, it's more a case of petulant prissyness, everybody in a multi-cultural society has to put up with a degree of "offense". Muslim people feel offended by the way we dress here, but they don't go round telling people off. Upper-class people and the aristocracy have always sworn, so has the working-class. It's just the "refoined" bit in the lower echelons in the middle that thinks they have to teach the world good manners. And good manners in their books, is using "nice" language.
It's a pity that they end up with a comedy vocabulary "Pardon my French" and "You naughty little so-and-so" they say. Maybe it's time to realise that not everybody shares either your background, nor your values. And that the times where you could claim cultural superiority, lead the way, and show people the errors of THEIR ways are definitely over. Soap, please!