FingerI’m loving the recent song by Nickleback: “Rock Star.” Some of the lyrics include:

“Cause we all just wanna be big rockstars
Live in hilltop houses driving fifteen cars
The girls come easy and the drugs come cheap
We’ll all stay skinny cause we just won’t eat”

“I wanna be great like Elvis without the tassels
Hire eight body guards that love to beat up assholes

“I’m gonna dress my ass
with the latest fashion”

“We’ll get you anything
with that evil smile
Everybody’s got a
drug dealer on speed dial”

“I’m gonna sing those songs
that offend the censors
Gonna pop my pills
from a pez dispenser”

The words in bold are those that “offend the censors” and get bleeped out or just silenced on several music channels: “drugs,” “assholes,” “ass,” “drug dealer,” and “pills.”

I’ve never seen the point of this kind of editing. What is bleeping out a word meant to achieve in this instance? The only thing that it seems to do is draw attention to the word in question, and I can only imagine a curious 8 year old hearing the song and going onto Google to find out what the missing word is.

An even sillier approach to hang-ups with certain words and phrases can be found on the website of a Christian Group called Focus on the Family. Their website offers reviews of films, television, and music so as to aid their loyal flock in choosing moral, God-fearing entertainment. I’ll never forget its review of one of my favourite Christmas films, Bad Santa: “A shocking amount of profanity is used. . . about 150 f-words. . .60 s-words, along with more than 75 other profanities and crudities. God’s name is profaned over 15 times. . . A couple of obscene gestures crop up.” Isn’t it just a tad psychotic that some guy sat counting the number of times someone said ‘fuck’ or ‘shit’? And just why are those words, or any words, considered inherently immoral? Why is “I fell down the stairs” a perfectly valid sentence while “I fell down the fucking stairs” is supposed to be wrong? To my mind words are neither inherently moral nor inherently immoral.

But the hang-ups people have continue to amuse me. For instance, why do so many people think the word “crap” isn’t quite as bad as “shit”? They refer to the same thing: the browny-black stuff (depends on what you’ve been eating I suppose) that comes out of your arse on average twice a day. Why would saying “my job is rubbish” be more acceptable than “my job is shitty?” The purpose of words is communication. They convey meaning. In my example above there is little difference in meaning, if any at all. Words themselves have no moral bias: they can be neither inherently wrong/bad, nor inherently right/good. It all depends on the context. Telling your mate in the pub to go and fuck himself when he jests about shagging your mother is altogether different from angrily telling a 4 year old child to go and fuck itself when it asks for some dinner. And, obviously, we could be equally nasty in such a case without using so-called “swear words” at all.

To me the use of “f-words” or “s-words” or “c-words” or “d-words” is a matter of taste – not morality. The BBC got into trouble a few years ago when it showed a musical called “Jerry Springer: the Opera.” One of the reasons for the outcry was the amount of “profanity” contained in the show. Now, one of the things I like about a film or piece of theatre is the quality of the dialogue. In “Jerry Springer: The Opera,” the dialogue didn’t quite grip me. “What the fuck, what the fuck, what the fucking fucking fuck” is funny the first time you hear it sung opera style, but it loses some effect after a while, (as do descriptions of the Devil as a “Cunty Cunty Cunty Cunty Cunty Cunty Cunt”). I watched the first 30 minutes before changing the channel. I wasn’t offended by the language. I was bored. Billy Connelly’s tour of New Zealand was much more interesting (with not much less swearing in parts).

The media circus that surrounded this piece of televised theatre was much more entertaining. Christians protested in their thousands and, even more amusing, The Sun newspaper (tabloid rag and upright guardian of the nation’s morals, apparently) had a campaign going against the show, in which, in true Focus on the Family style, it told us just how many “Fs” and “Cs” there were. It’s very nice of The Sun to protect us from the gratuitous use of certain vowels and consonants in a particular order don’t you think? “uck” can after all be a deadly combination of letters for word-ending, from which we are best protected, and “unt” is specifically brutal.

There is, of course, a tendency for some people to overuse words such as fuck or shit, and I agree that the overuse of words is a bad thing – often a sign of a limited vocabulary. I heard a guy talking to his friend on a bus and a sample sentence from the conversation went as follows: “I fucking went down to that fucking wee fucking pub that just opened at the back of the fucking town. It was fucking shit.” However, this is not a moral wrong about which to get vehemently upset. At worst it’s linguistically bad, and would apply to the overuse of any word, not just so-called “swear words.”

The use of swear words can be particularly effective in many instances: to convey anger or give added humour, for instance. Billy Connolly is the only man on earth who can make me piss my pants laughing, and although his humour doesn’t rely on swear words (as does the humour of so many “comedians”) his humour is certainly enhanced by it. I think the reason for this is that when he uses these words it’s natural, not forced; it’s just how the man speaks and communicates. The same goes for the written word, a well placed “fuck,” “shit,” “cunt,” or “arse” can be particularly effective. In a blog a while ago John had me in kinks laughing at his description of Heather Mills/McCartney as a “blistering cunt of a woman.”

So, the real issue isn’t whether or not we should use certain words but rather how best to use them for maximum effect. Ruling them out altogether just makes no sense, but I doubt the cunty cunty cunty cunts who disagree will take much notice of my arguments.

Stephen

PS…In case any representatives of Focus on the Family or The Sun are reading, I’ve saved you the trouble:

This article contained 16 f-words, 5 s-words, 3 a-words and 13 c-words.