Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness. You can find him on the blog (mostly) on Sundays. Enjoy!
Why I Have Given Up Swearing
Swearing is something I’ve always enjoyed. Whether it be early Richard Pryor or Bill Hicks shows and their well-deployed curses to emphasize a point or the explosive fury of Zack De La Rocha on the lead out of ‘Killing In The Name’, I’ve never found the words personally offense and I’ve enjoyed using them to pepper my own language as and when required.
So then, why am I trying not to curse these days? It’s not because I have children, they are their own people and can make their own choices with language. It’s not because I find the words themselves deplorable, they’re usually just Anglo Saxon terms for bodily functions. It’s not even due to censure from my wife, although she does find foul language unpleasant. So, why?
Well first, because it’s insidious. After years of enthusiastic swearing, I found that my cursing was slipping into conversation unexpectedly. Sometimes in front of the kids, sometimes in an informal work conversation. All relatively innocuous, but the problem was I was not aware I was doing it.
It recalled times when I used to smoke and I would light a cigarette without even really realizing I had done it. What had started as a linguistic tool had become a matter of habit. Habits can be fine, but they are, by definition repetitive behaviors and so with any habit, you need to ask whether it’s a good thing to be doing or not.
I also found that the more I swore, the smaller my vocabulary got. I love words and I love wordplay (except for puns, puns can die for all I care) but I’d stopped putting any imagination or effort into my language and substituted instead for a liberal smattering of F-bombs. In short, I was beginning to sound ignorant.
Most of all though. Stepping back and listening to what I was saying, I heard the aggression that had become a constant in my tone. However commonplace it is, swearing is an aggressive thing to include in language. What I’ve learned about aggression is that it’s not just the object of it that suffers, the aggressor is also generally in a place of high stress.
Just because I was doing something every day, it didn’t normalise the effect it had on me.
So I stopped swearing. Does this mean I never swear at all? No, of course not. I’m only human and if I shut my hand in the door I generally turn the air a bit blue. Does it mean I’m now infused with zen-like calm? Again, no, I’m a fairly intense person at the best of times. Does it mean though that I am calmer than I used to be? Yes, definitely.
Most of all though, once again I can have fun with language. The English language has existed in modern form for around 700 years and that leaves a whole lot of words to choose from. I don’t find I’m ever lost for words or searching around for le mot juste.
Best of all, as I originate from the UK and speak British English, if I’m looking to insult someone, I can take any common noun and preface it with ‘You absolute…’ and I have a ready-made insult there and then. Try it, you might have fun.