ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Good Bad Words

As repressed middle-class parents and an inhibited media tend to bleep out swear words, we must remember that verbal sanitation is not conducive to free thought.

My brother, who is in the merchant navy, used to regale us with his Scottish captain’s colourful oaths: “He thinks his shit smells like lavender” or “He thinks the sun shines out of his arse.” I was eight or nine at the time and my parents did not order me out of the room or restrain my brother (who was in his early 20s) in any manner. Shitting, pissing and farting (but not f***ing, of course) were freely spoken of at home, and even described with relish — in our mother tongue more than in English, I must add. For us, “bad language” meant bad grammar.

The notorious F-word entered my life — both linguistically and physically — when I exited home just as I had slammed into my 20s and run headlong into the embrace of yet another intoxicating F-word: “freedom.” Freedom of speech and action — that’s what I hankered after. I said “f**k” at every opportunity. I used the taboo word in an article I wrote for the tabloid I worked for, about college slang. My editor backed me. That was in the early 1980s.

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