I love to swear. I know I’m not supposed to. I’m a responsible parent, in control of my faculties and with an extensive vocabulary at my disposal. But sometimes only a swear word will do. Nothing else seems able to capture the moment as eloquently as an obscenity.
There are three main occasions when I feel the need to resort to inappropriate language. For, after all, I wouldn’t want you to think that I’m f-ing and blinding at the drop of a hat.
1. In the face of sharp pain or immediate disaster. Into this category I would place stubbing my toe, for example. It really hurts. A nice round swear word is almost akin to morphine for taking away the pain. And surely you would forgive an outburst if a pint of milk were to smash to the floor or I drop the box of hundreds and thousands?
2. Frustration in extremis. Fridays are a good day to catch a frustrated expletive round here as that’s the day I clean my house from top to bottom only to have my efforts annihilated within fifteen minutes of the kids getting home. I know it would be more appropriate to say ‘For goodness sake’ as I chase after them trying to rectify the damage but it just doesn’t cut it.
3. Surprise – either good or bad. It doesn’t really matter but both are likely to elicit the same response.
Whilst I have a fair few choice options in my armoury, I am not an arbitrary swearer. I only really use variations on two words. They are certainly not the most offensive but neither would I expect to hear them coming from the mouths of my children. My children are not allowed to swear. Oh dear me no. I’m not even happy with the ubiquitous OMG from them. I pick them up on it every time and will tut if their friends swear in my presence too, making light of it but nonetheless making it clear that we don’t do that in our house. And that’s how I was brought up. We absolutely did not swear. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard my dad use foul language even now.
What a hypocrite I am then as I regularly utter inappropriate expletives in front of my children. They roll their eyes and tick me off. Someone even suggested a swear box which I scoffed at because it’s not that I can’t control my swearing. Quite the reverse. If I swear in public, other than possibly in case 1 but sometimes even then, I will have made a calculated decision to do so. I will have considered all the ways in which I can express myself and, for whatever reason, have selected the swear word as being the one that most clearly expresses what I wish to convey. And that, I believe, is the way language should be used.
And so, somewhat arrogantly you might quite fairly say, I tell my children that when I am sure that their vocabulary is wide enough to give them as vast a range of possible options as I have, when I can see that they have not just sworn as a lazy response to what has happened or, worse still, out of a sloppy habit and when they completely understand the social effects of the way that they have chosen to express themselves then I might be more forgiving. But they aren’t there yet and so they aren’t allowed to swear. Until that day however, they are learning from a master!