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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Flutsch

The Glorious Art of Swearing

There is a perception among a certain brand of gentility in England that swearing is not the done thing, particularly for women, whether old or young. The thought goes that it is vulgar and base; that if you can’t express yourself without swearing, then you can’t express yourself at all.

I say that swearing, in all its rich glory, is an art. English is one of the most textured living languages – its deep roots have grown up, intertwined, with many other tongues, ancient and mysterious – its vocab dense, ornate, expressive and satisfying.

Prohibit yourself from an entire concentrated block of your mother tongue and you oppress yourself. You give the language an extra power; a magic to hurt, shock and wound you.

Grasp that vocabulary, greedily with both hands, explore it in its full satisfying, lush abundance and you grasp real power. A power to command as you will. A secret super-power - to be used responsibly, as all great power should be used – in the right place and at the right time.

Shakespeare was the supreme skilled proficient in swearing. And, where no words existed to express his philosophies, he created new ones.

Who could not love, “unwiped”, “reeky”, “overgorged”, “beslubbering”, “sheep biting”, “fat kidneyed”, “flap-eared”, “rabbit sucker”, or, here in Oxford, the worst insult of all, “uneducated”.

There is but one word that I will not use. That I have banished from the treasure chest of my vocabulary. It is a word that is owned, I believe, by one group that has suffered like few in history. A group that has been torn away from their homeland, from each other, and forced into the most terrible slavery. A group upon whose suffering great nations have been built. That word is for them. Everything else is mine for the taking.


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