My first ever swear word as such was actually not a swear word but a cartoony curse of sorts. Does anyone remember the ‘Wacky Races?’ I used to watch it as a kid when living in Australia at around 10 or 11 years of age. one of my favourite characters was actually Muttley voiced originally by Don Messick. He was the sidekick to Dick Dastardly, a fiendish mischevious character if ever there was one!
“Dick Dastardly and Muttley!”
One of the things that Muttley was notorious for was his cursing or cussing or mumbling incoherently, and one of my all time favourites of his was “Snicker snicker! drats it! snicker snicker!” To the unlearned or at the very least someone not used to watching Wacky Races, was that this particular phrase sounded like “Rat Shit!”. My parents constantly berated me for swearing, saying that l was using proffanity. Kind of rich coming from my Father who used to swear far worse than l at that age could ever imagine!
My Mother actually broke her wrist on me because of that very phrase in 1973 when l was 10. At the time we were libing in Springvale in Victoria, and l was watching the programme with my little Sister and l was sniggering and snickering, and repeating drats it all over the house.
There is a particular behaviour many of the spectrum possess [not that l knew that then] and that is occasionally we get a word stuck in our heads and we will play with it both mentally and vocally and repeat it several times over, and for me ‘drats it’, was that turn of words. I loved it, however on that particular day, my Mother was convinced that l was walking around the house sniggering and muttering rat shit!
“Snicker snicker drats it snicker snicker!”
So outraged was she that her Son was blatantly ignoring the no swear routine for the household that she hollered for me to come to her and explain myself – which l did and as luck would have it. Wacky Races was actually on the television at the time so l could landmark my reason for muttering as l was. However parents have a mind of their own, and although l seemingly believed that l was explaining myself, she saw to it that l was infact being lippy, and so went to strike me across the face. Instinctively l went to protect myself and raised my arm to my face, her wrist came into contact with mine and there was the softest of ‘snaps’ that l heard but she did not.
Visibly before my eyes her arm started to swell, and so even further scornful she began to level me with slaps and hits. i eventually crumbled under the weight of it and fell to the floor, to which point she stopped and realised that her arm was horribly swollen, and then proceeded to kick out at me.
Oh aye, twasn’t easy growing up in my household l do assure you.
If that wasn’t enough punnishment, when my Father arrived on the scene, she then told him, l had broken her arm and to which point he then hit me, and after the trip to the hospital and several hours later l was smacked ‘good and proper’ and sent to bed with nothing to eat for dinner.
Oddly enough, l never used the phrase again, and lost all interest in a programme that l used to thoroughly love.
Before that particular incident the worst that used to escape my lips was “Bloody!” Everything was bloody this and bloody that, and my parents would excuse my use of this, of sorts. I could say bloody as much as l wanted but not in the company of others. So bloody was ok, but shit wasn’t, not that l was saying shit in the first place.
By the time l was 13 l was attending [as was the way then] Monteray Technical School in Frankston in Victoria and was subjected to the most horrific bullying because l was in their eyes, nothing more than a useless Pommy bastard and to boot quite strange. Quirky wasn’t the word used back then, although terms of endearment from teachers were similiar to a “Bloody Galah of a lad!”
I attended this school, because in the early 70’s in Australia, if your grades didn’t cut it, you were not sent off to an academic education facility but a technical college to hone up your practical skills. I am not a practical person even now l am terribly clumsy, you will read in time of how l have electrocuted myself, set myself on fire and nearly cut fingers and other extremeties off with my world famous practicality talents!!
As much as l detested being bullied at school, in truth they were amateurs! My Father was the biggest terrorist of my life and all their own pitiful attempts at black eyes, bruised stomach and bloodied shins, were nothing. The only reason my Father stepped in was because on the odd occasion l would return home with torn clothing, notably trousers, shirt and blazer! Or the biggest sin of all was that my blazer badge may have been ripped off ……… again! These damages cost money in repairs, nay never mind the Son coming home blooded, that was just school.
He [Father] did try to teach me to fight, but l was never a fighter, so that was quite pointless and proved horribly wrong with the breaking of my own thumb when l punched a bag badly! But also, l had and still have terrible balance so it was an awful clumsy sight to behold me trying to learn the finer arts of combat!
So, the next step was in fact to grant me permission to “Swear!” The use of proffanity at school was now my line of defence. However, bloody and ‘drats it’, were not going to be sufficient and so was born “The dictionary of acceptable swear words – the what l could say and how l could deliver them for effect, but the only to be used at school not at home, and not in front of your Mother!!”
The new colourful me was born in those early days of swearing down and acting profane! But it did work, l have to award him credit for the strategy, and the more l swore the less the bullying occured [at school]. I could finally hold my own, and l became very experimental with swearing and if anything it became an absolute passion of mine!
These days l still swear and some have likened me to a pig farmer for my highly vibrant and colourful use of the English language at times! This is not saying that every second word is profane, and l don’t swear in front of others unless they are swearers already.
You see they are just words to me these days, just part of another volume of diction l refer to and use. However these days swearing has become more commonly used, and from much younger ages than when l first learned to properly swear to protect myself and mix in and as such a form of fitting in with my peers. Now kids are swearing from as young as five, and maybe even younger pending of course where they learn it from, picked it up from or just generally acquired it.
Now we have proffanity on television, in video games, in music, now it’s everywhere and used everyday. Don’t misunderstand me, to me they are just words, it is always down to another persons’ interpretation or translation of the words used and more importantly if they are used against them?
Recently l held several polls on media to examine how people felt about swearing … Asking how often people swore, if they did swear, if it was considered a bad habit, did they consider it inappropriate and the such like?
The average poll numbered between 300 to 500 votes.
Would you say you swear/cuss a lot – more than normal, or are you curse free?
51% voted for ‘swearing like a trooper’, with 37% voting ‘only occasionally blue’, 7% answered ‘always polite’ and 5% pleading ignorance to what swearing actually was?
What Do You Consider To Be More Insulting or Offensive?
Only 3% of voters regarded bad language and swearing as being so, 14% regarded inequality remarks as being a problem, 64% voted for abusive behaviour with the remaining 19% looking at offensive comments and or jokes as being more insulting.
We Have Bad Habits Right? What’s Your Worst?
8% were nail biters,24% smokers, 42% were procrastinators and only 26% considered swearing as being a bad habit. Although one voter tore me a new a-hole in her defiance of swearing even being on the list!
However, where do you stand on the subject? Were you like me perhaps taught to swear? Granted permission to swear? Naturally acquired the ‘skill?’ How do you feel about swearing? Is it a bad habit for you, or considered a vice? Do you swear like a pig farmer or a trooper or hardly at all?