Louise, a kindergarten teacher, overheard 5 year old Zac telling someone to piss off. "We don't use those words at school," she reproved, quite kindly.
"Bullshit!" he replied. "Year 4 say it all the time."
For me to use these words is somewhat like my wearing a bikini. Of course people wear them, (although I might find some decisions re this to be flawed), and I can find it enviable. But unseemly, unattractive and inappropriate for me.
"Damn" is well within my repetoire, plus "bugger". But not the above, or further up the scale. Not because I'm prim. Not because I'm female: my father was in the trenches, logging camps, ships et al, and I never heard him say as much as "damn": my standards are lower than his. A student at Manchester Grammar early in the last century, my father was fortunate enough to be presented with classical role models which guided his life,. My husband may have used lurid language on his farm for all I know, but not at home. Going to a private school, my husband was indoctrinated? with the same idealism that my father was.
"A man is someone who can control himself," says 30 year old Fred, and one can make of that what one will.
But, probably it's because I'm older. Perhaps, in the past, words were more of a social divider, and these were the words of the lowest classes, so one eschewed them. I see many of these words as coarse and vulgar. They are not that way for the younger, and they can use them with quite a different spirit, and with an exhilirating outcome.
Plus, the now quite ubiquitous "f"was simply obscene Irrespective of what Tsolkias said in his anger, no one used it. Simon and Garfunkel's "four letters on a subway wall" portray this exactly: this occasional scrawl at a railway station was an act of sexual aggression, a virtual rape, by an anonymous, dysfunctional and perverted thing.
For me to say this carries no particular weight, so I am happy to say that Nora Ephron, who carries a lot more credibility, says pretty much the same thing.
I can also say that I am happy that the power of this assault has been dissipated by the contemporary ubiqiuty of the "f" use.
Because, by and large, I have no issue with other people swearing...I can find it funny, tolerable, interesting or unnoticeable... and I am sometimes quite fascinated by it. Fascinated that "f" and "c" first came to acceptance through literature and other high places. Fascinated about the unwritten rules: it is acceptable to swear across or down the hierarchy , but not up: Zac's error.
Fascinated and frustrated that it can express such a range of emotions, or none. Rather appalled that it is a social issue: one can be charged and gaoled evidently, for using language that is commonplace on tv.
I wrote a flash fiction of 300 words, moving from him initially calling her "sweetie" to referring to her as a "manipulative bitch". It occurred to me that, in contemporary mores, he should have referred to her as a "f"ing " "c".
Stronger? Why are those expletives "stronger", when they are so comonplace?
"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," said Rhett Butler. A scathing sentence.
Oh, the patronising tone of "my dear".
And; "I don't give a..." gives all the contempt possible, irrespective of whether it was a damn or a f.
The power of words. We seem to have given up on that.