On Swearing

John Harris urges restraint:

Contrary to the idea that the F and C words have lost their impact, they seem to me to still have the power not necessarily to shock, but to render the atmosphere charged and discomfiting. Couple them with an insult, and the point becomes even clearer. Far from believing that 21st century swearing is all but meaningless, I’d wager that we all know this: to swear is still to ramp up the force of what’s said, and its potential to offend. In short, in the right (or, rather, wrong) context, swearing can still be brutal and non-empathetic – verbal violence, if you will,…

Apply that to the ever-increasing flood of swearing on post-watershed TV, or the ubiquity of the words in your average town and city, and you might arrive at the following conclusion: to take umbrage at all that profanity isn’t to ally oneself with the Daily Mail and the successors to Mary Whitehouse, but to understand that vocabulary speaks volumes about prevailing social conditions, and that all our swearing says something very powerful about what a mutually contemptuous, atomised, inarticulate society we’re becoming.