Sworn out

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Last updated on August 8th, 2017 at 05:30 pm

The Weekly Standard’s Joseph Epstein vows to kick his swearing habit:

I decided to banish profanity from my conversation because it began to seem indecorous, especially in a man who is a grandfather. A clue that it was time to cease was when I began to part words in the middle with the F-word: as in unf——-believable.

I completely underf——-stand. (Read Joseph’s enf——-tire piece, by the way; very funny.) I’m a moderate swearer by Australian standards, and absurdly mild by Australian journalist standards; you’d be particularly surprised at the conversational sweariness of some ABC presenters. It isn’t unusual for Australians to use the f-word as an “umm” substitute:

“So I went to the … f——- … supermarket, and I bought some … f——- … lightbulbs to replace the … f———… bulbs that blew out on the … f———… porch.”

No particular emphasis is placed; it’s just a pause device while one gathers one’s f——- thoughts. (Please think no ill of my grandmother, supplier of the above quote.) Journalists—especially female journalists—are among our finest swearmongers. The Australian’s Elisabeth Wynhausen recently turned up at News Ltd’s Sydney office wearing a burka; although disguised, everybody knew Elisabeth was the burka model because of all the cursing and ranting coming from inside of it.

(Via auntie kc, a recovering Florida swearstress)

UPDATE. The Age’s Jason Koutsoukis reveals Labor’s meek little Kevin Rudd to be a lively swearboy:

Asked to write a story about who the Liberals might fear the most, I dug up this quote about Rudd from a senior Liberal strategist: “Rudd is the class prat, the sort of guy who would have worn a bow tie to the high school quiz contest,” said my source. “He might know all the answers, but everyone would want to beat him up after school.”

The phone started ringing very early on the day the story appeared and before the receiver even reached my ear I could hear someone shouting at me.

Amid liberal use of the f-word and several colourful references to me being some kind of very smelly, very fat and very stupid walking genital not fit to breathe the same air as human beings, I realised that it was none other than the bow-tied class prat himself.

The problem, it took me some minutes to work out, was the bit about the bow tie.

“I never even knew what a f—-king bow tie was when I was in high school, let alone how to put one on,” Rudd bawled down the phone.

Rudd went all the way through high school without knowing what a bow tie was? Worldly!

Posted by Tim B. on 11/25/2006 at 10:09 AM
    1. Was it Robert Graves who observed that in the British Army, the f-word lost all meaning other than to announce the arrival of a noun?  Or some fucking Brit, anyway.

      Posted by stokes on 2006 11 25 at 11:04 AM • permalink


    1. Just substitute another word, like “m’kay”, m’kay. That or start a “swear jar”.

      Posted by andycanuck on 2006 11 25 at 11:15 AM • permalink


    1. although disguised, everybody knew Elisabeth was the burka model because of all the cursing and ranting coming from inside of it.

      After reading her account, I think I’d be cursing and ranting too.  In fact, I might be tempted to punch the shinola out of the nearest Muslim male after about half a day.

      Posted by RebeccaH on 2006 11 25 at 11:54 AM • permalink


    1. I’m a teetotaler, myself. I’ve always felt swearing was a sign of a weak mind, and a lack of class.

      And, if you disagree with that….f*** yourself, you f’ing losers.

      Posted by rinardman on 2006 11 25 at 11:56 AM • permalink


    1. Trivia time: In the movie “Goodfellas”, the f-word is used 246 times.

      Posted by Dave S. on 2006 11 25 at 12:51 PM • permalink


    1. My first month in Maine, I was standing outside of work on break with one of my new co-workers as the sun was going down. The sky was brilliant orange and red with rays of sun shooting from behind some big, fluffy clouds. My co-worker was so touched by this display of sublime beauty that he was moved to solemnly remark, “Jesus Christ, looks like a fahkin’ postcahd.”

      Posted by Dave S. on 2006 11 25 at 12:56 PM • permalink


    1. The Australian’s Elisabeth Wynhausen recently turned up at News Ltd’s Sydney office wearing a burka; although disguised, everybody knew Elisabeth was the burka model because of all the cursing and ranting coming from inside of it.

      I’m fairly sure the Koran allows for cutting out her tongue in situations like this. Must ask the Imam.

      Posted by PW on 2006 11 25 at 02:22 PM • permalink


    1. #4 rinardman,

      I concur. Obscenity is the linguistic crutch of the inarticulate motherf*cker.

      Posted by JDB on 2006 11 25 at 02:22 PM • permalink


    1. In traditional Army Creole, the f-word could take the place of just about any part of a sentence except an article. Here’s an example I found on the Internet, complete with context-dependent translation:

      Fuck! The fucking fuckers fucking fucked! Fuck!

      Darn, The M60 7.62mm machine gun is badly broken.  I am not pleased.

      Then, of course, there is the Army attitude check.—“Fuck it.”

      Army seal of approval – “Fuck’n A”

      Army C-ration of canned ham and lima beans – “Beans and Motherfuckers.”

      A screw-up: “Cluster-fuck”, sometimes called a “Charlie Foxtrot.”

      And it’s in about a zillion other common terms—often expressed as acronyms. For example, the second F in the acronym for the B-52, the BUFF, is not “fellow” as is often reported in the media. Likewise, the F in SNAFU does not stand for “fouled.”

      Posted by Bruce Rheinstein on 2006 11 25 at 02:29 PM • permalink


    1. #9: A screw-up: “Cluster-fuck”, sometimes called a “Charlie Foxtrot.”

      I will never forget watching a version of Heartbreak Ridge on, I think, TBS, and hearing Clint Eastwood’s use of this word dubbed as “Clusterflop”.

      Posted by paco on 2006 11 25 at 02:48 PM • permalink


    1. #10,  It’s not that I advocate swearing as a general rule (although I don’t shy away from the usage myself), but dubbing in movies to cover up profanity is about the most useless exercise I have ever witnessed.Everyone knows what they’re really saying, and it’s distracting to listen to the really angry tough guy in the midst of a firefight suddenly begin to sound like an automated phone voice telling the time and weather.  In sissified language, no less.

      Posted by RebeccaH on 2006 11 25 at 03:13 PM • permalink


    1. #10 I remember the “attitude check” from an old Hollywood war movie, “Darn it!”

      Posted by Bruce Rheinstein on 2006 11 25 at 03:13 PM • permalink


    1. I’d be happy if they cut out a lot of the gratuitous swearing in movies.  It distracts.  I prefer a writer who uses his vocabulary—or who at least has one.

      It isn’t that I’m prudish.  I was a Navy nurse in a war zone, after all, and learned to hold my own in sheer self-defense.  I appreciate the value of a well-placed curse; I think it is that the good swear words loose their punch when they are used all the time.  My husband knows when he’s dived into deep waters when I let loose because I never use such words otherwise.  It always shocks a little, as it ought.

      Posted by saltydog on 2006 11 25 at 03:56 PM • permalink


    1. Great fuckin’ thread Tim. Should be good for few fuckin’ laughs….

      Posted by Bonmot on 2006 11 25 at 04:25 PM • permalink


    1. #13: I’m with you, Salty. Swearing too often is a pretext for avoiding intelligent discourse. And when it’s used too frequently, it loses its piquancy.

      Posted by paco on 2006 11 25 at 04:37 PM • permalink


    1. It isn’t unusual for Australians to use the f-word as an “umm” substitute:

      No shit?

      Hmm, this may not have been the best thread to introduce my mother to your blog on…

      Posted by richard mcenroe on 2006 11 25 at 04:41 PM • permalink


    1. Salty, my in-laws were in their eighties when m-i-l used the f-word for the first time in her life. She had been so angry with f-i-l that she leaned over and said that one word into his ear.
      He knew it was not an invitation and was contrite for a week.

      Posted by Skeeter on 2006 11 25 at 05:38 PM • permalink


    1. Notable Australian pottymouths include ACTU secretary Greg Combet.  I used to have my morning coffee at a place next door to ACTU House, at which Greg also held frequent coffee-conferences.  The small space and hard surfaces ensured that everyone there was treated to the profuse obscenities that larded even his mildest utterance.  And when he started talking about Sharan Burrow…well!!

      Posted by cuckoo on 2006 11 25 at 06:23 PM • permalink


    1. #13 & 15
      I agree. There’s something annoying about hearing kids of all ages using a large smattering of the “f” word though their conversations.

      I swear too much. I never used to, it’s only in the last 5 or 6 years or so. I was dragged up in a home where nobody swore, the worst curses used were bloody and bugger it, my mum NEVER swore, nor did her mum. Dad’s mum’s worst was “Sugar, butter, jam and honey”, that’s when you knew she was really cross.

      Now I hear parents of little kids who should know better swearing at the kids. How can you do that in front of and at your kids and expect them not to swear themselves?

      Posted by kae on 2006 11 25 at 06:40 PM • permalink


    1. When I was a sprog I worked on trawlers during my school holidays.
      In my first week back at class I got in a little bit of trouble for suggesting a classmate should go and have intimate relations with a close family member in fairly graphic detail.
      My dad was in town so came in for the meeting at which I was to be told I was a bad lad.
      We both went in (dad dressed like a fishy smelling derro) and before the councellor lady could open her mouth dad piped up with ” Whats this fuckin bullshit you cunts are saying about my boy fuckin swearin in class?”
      That was effectively the end of that.

      Posted by thefrollickingmole on 2006 11 25 at 07:01 PM • permalink


    1. You don’t need to reach for the f—-wit word to describe Kevvy Rudd, when there are obvious alternatives like obnoxious, pretentious, smart-alec prat; and know-it-all jackass.

      Remember that line in Twins?: Julius, nobody in America likes a smart arse. Kev, that goes for Australians too.

      Posted by Big Arnie on 2006 11 25 at 07:15 PM • permalink


    1. Frollick, you’ve got to be making that up!

      There’s no way that a trawlerman or deckie will use the pejorative “c*nts” without the adjectival “fucking”.

      I call bullshit!

      Posted by Kaboom on 2006 11 25 at 07:58 PM • permalink


    1. kae and others, I tend to think there is too much swearing in society … it’s laziness … but when used sparingly, it does have shock value, and that can be used for good effect.

      Posted by Stevo on 2006 11 25 at 08:06 PM • permalink


    1. Rudd went all the way through high school without knowing what a bow tie was? Worldly!

      On the other hand, he was intimately familiar with the Little Lord Fauntleroy collar.

      Posted by cuckoo on 2006 11 25 at 08:14 PM • permalink


    1. The reason there is too much swearing in today’s society is very easily explained………

      Posted by Kaboom on 2006 11 25 at 08:15 PM • permalink


    1. Was about to get on the bus one day, a couple of teenage girls ahead of me, when a teenage guy shoved on ahead of us all, one of the girls said:

      “Hey, whatever happened to ladies first … fucking asshole.”

      Pretty much sums it all up, really.

      Posted by Achillea on 2006 11 25 at 08:57 PM • permalink


    1. The rule in the house when I was growing up was that my brother and I could use any word we heard our parents use.  As a consequence, I was halfway through college before I heard more than the mildest profanity from either of them.

      Posted by Achillea on 2006 11 25 at 09:08 PM • permalink


    1. One day a little boy was getting under his mother’s feet. She said, “Why don’t you go watch the men putting up the house across the street. Maybe you’ll learn something.”

      A few hours later, the lad comes home. “So, what did you learn?”, his mother asks.

      “Well, first you try to put the goddamn door in, but the bastard won’t fit. So you take the fuckin’ planer and shave a cunt hair off,  then stick the bitch in there.”

      His mother is aghast. “Wait until your father gets home!”

      Dad comes home, Mom tells him the story, and the livid Dad says, “Young man, you go out to the backyard right now and get me a switch!”

      The boy says, “Fuck you, that’s the electrician’s job!”

      Posted by Dave S. on 2006 11 25 at 09:52 PM • permalink


    1. #24 Cuckoo,

      lol. Its going to be interesting to see how the PR hacks re-make Ruddy. His name should really be Mortimer not Kevin.

      Posted by Nic on 2006 11 25 at 10:09 PM • permalink


    1. Back in the days when kids were allowed to have firecrackers in Australia, Little Johnny was in class regaling the other kids with his pyrotechnic treatment of Cane Toads:

      Johnny: “And then I stuck a bunger up its arsehole, and lit it!”

      Teacher (aghast): “Johnny, that’s rectum!

      Johnny: “Rectum?  Blew him to fuckin’ pieces, Miss!”

      Posted by Kaboom on 2006 11 25 at 10:16 PM • permalink


    1. I admit to swearing. I also know it’s lazy, but it all depends on the audience. You know I’m really, really pissed off when I tell you I’m severely unimpressed with you.

      You would ned to start running very far and very fast.

      I think fuck has taken over as the Great Australian Adjective.

      W.T. Goodge

      The sunburnt bloody stockman stood
      And, in a dismal bloody mood,
      Apostrophized his bloody cuddy;
      “The bloody nag’s no bloody good,
      He couldn’t earn his bloody food—
      A regular bloody brumby,

      He jumped across the bloody horse
      And cantered off, of bloody course!
      The roads were bad and bloody muddy;
      Said he, “Well, spare me bloody days
      The bloody Government’s bloody ways
      Are screamin’ bloody funny,

      He rode up hill, down bloody dale,
      The wind it blew a bloody gale,
      The creek was high and bloody floody.
      Said he, “The bloody horse must swim,
      The same for bloody me and him,
      Is something bloody sickenin’,

      He plunged into the bloody creek,
      The bloody horse was bloody weak,
      The stockman’s face a bloody study!
      And though the bloody horse was drowned
      The bloody rider reached the ground
      Ejaculating, “Bloody?”

      Posted by Nilknarf Arbed on 2006 11 25 at 10:30 PM • permalink


    1. Cuckoo, SWAT Womble is far more rugged these days.

      Posted by C.L. on 2006 11 25 at 10:42 PM • permalink


    1. I read this and thought “I’ll bet myself an extra helping of dessert someone curses in the VERY FIRST post”. Yum, I love black forest cake.

      Posted by mencken_cynic on 2006 11 25 at 10:44 PM • permalink


    1. The neologisms they have to come up with for swearing in TV sci-fi shows is reckoned to be the bane of those writers.

      A $2.50 door prize to the first person to correctly cite the origin of these:
      1. Smeg.
      2. Frack.

      Posted by Dminor on 2006 11 25 at 11:19 PM • permalink


    1. Well, ‘frack’ (along with ‘felgercarb’) was from the original Battlestar Galactica.

      Yes, I have now just sadly dated myself.

      Posted by Achillea on 2006 11 25 at 11:24 PM • permalink


    1. Smeg = Red Dwarf.

      Posted by kae on 2006 11 25 at 11:32 PM • permalink


    1. #34. An’ ‘smeg’ would be from Red Dwarf, eh?

      Posted by Olrence on 2006 11 25 at 11:34 PM • permalink


    1. #34
      Smeg – Red Dward

      Posted by walterplinge on 2006 11 25 at 11:52 PM • permalink


    1. Dwarf

      Posted by walterplinge on 2006 11 25 at 11:52 PM • permalink


    1. On the other hand, you can always swear in gorram Firefly.

      Posted by Achillea on 2006 11 26 at 12:04 AM • permalink


    1. Auntie KC is a ‘recovering swearstress’?
      Auntie, I’m shocked. I knew you were a rude old bitch (see #53), but I never imagined you as a fuckin’ rude old bitch.

      Posted by SwinishCapitalist on 2006 11 26 at 01:42 AM • permalink


    1. Let’s not forget these classic acronymns:

      FUBAR: Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition

      FIDO: Fuck It, Drive On

      Oh, “Fuck” is such a versatile word!!!!

      Posted by The_Real_JeffS on 2006 11 26 at 01:56 AM • permalink


    1. I hate to see the English language abused like some hapless camel left tied to a palm tree behind a Riyadh 7/11.

      A case in point – I always thought that the correct expression was “unbefuckinglievable” not “unfucking-believable”…

      Posted by Margos Maid on 2006 11 26 at 02:10 AM • permalink


    1. FRED. Nickname for all computers. (fucking ridiculous electronic device)

      Posted by kae on 2006 11 26 at 02:15 AM • permalink


    1. MM, i’ve always heard it as unfuckingbelievable

      Jeff, great fucking link mate 😀

      Posted by Matthew Lawrence on 2006 11 26 at 02:18 AM • permalink


    1. kae … i think my first every computer program was called fred.p … to get the thread back on topic, the great doug walters was called freddie for short …

      Posted by Stevo on 2006 11 26 at 06:37 AM • permalink


    1. #34 Dminor
      Smeg – Red Dwarf
      Frack – BSG
      And one more:
      Frell – Farscape

      Posted by flying pigs over mecca on 2006 11 26 at 08:27 AM • permalink


    1. Someone should also mention that much of the swearing on Firefly was done in Chinese.

      Posted by RebeccaH on 2006 11 26 at 11:57 AM • permalink


    1. #34: Agreed. And it’s not just sci-fi TV, either- the X-Men comics set in the “Days of Future Past” universe tend to use futuristic swear words, including “shock” instead of “fuck.” Serious cop-out, in my opinion; you can’t tell me the slang has changed that much in ten or twenty years.

      And yes, most of the swearing on “Firefly” was indeed Mandarin Chinese. It’s a regular education, watching that show. I also learned a few Briticisms from “Doctor Who,” although oddly enough, there’s relatively little swearing for a show whose premise revolves around nearly getting killed every episode. I guess the Doctor can swear in Gallifreyan.

      Re the article itself: swearing is a habit I picked up from my older brothers, who went into the USMC as soon as they left high school. I try not to overuse it; when I get really ticked, I lapse into archaic speech patterns. (I also have a standing agreement with my little brother that he does not repeat anything he hears me say.) The danger with swearing is that it can become a way to avoid actual eloquence.

      Good authors too who once knew better words
      Now only use four-letter words writing prose
      Anything goes . . .

      Posted by Tungsten Monk on 2006 11 26 at 06:22 PM • permalink


    1. Swinish, as Tungsten Monk says, I picked up my speech habits from the folks around me – after I left home. The F-word wasn’t used, but I was fond of ‘damn’ by the time I was 9. Steadily got worse. Sailors & bikers, drunks of every sort, dontchaknow? I love language, so getting to be my age & still being a rude ol bitch, I have set about finding alternative words to replace the ones that would make my grandma blush but don’t even make my KID blink.

      F—-in’ A!

      Posted by KC on 2006 11 26 at 07:23 PM • permalink


    1. #30

      My mother reported having learned the rectum/wrecked’em joke in the schoolyard somewhere around 1920. I doubt it was new then.

      Anyway, it was a f——- beautiful day so he went for a f——- walk down the f——- street. There was a f——- girl standing on the f——- corner so he lured her into the f——- alley, tore off her f——- clothes, threw her on the f——- ground and had sexual intercourse with her.

      Posted by triticale on 2006 11 26 at 09:12 PM • permalink


    1. #35

      I thought the Felger Carb was one of those 100 mile per gallon devices the oil companies suppressed…

      Posted by triticale on 2006 11 26 at 09:14 PM • permalink


    1. #43,45. I’m with MM on this one.

      Posted by Nilknarf Arbed on 2006 11 27 at 04:00 AM • permalink


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