I am pro- profanity. I believe it’s good; I believe they are often descriptive, useful and helpful words.
When given the old (erroneous) line that people who use swearwords have meagre vocabularies, great comedian George Carlin was indignant. He said “I know LOTS of words. I just happen to like fuck”.
I’m reading a change-your-lifestyle book by John Parkin called Fuck It – Do What You Love. Except he writes it f**k it. I think that’s pointless (he probly did it for commercial reasons. I can understand that. Unlike me, he actually sold a lot of books and if you want to sell on the American market you probably have to sugar-coat reality). Everyone knows f**k means fuck, even the youngsters whose eyes and ears people are ostensibly shielding. I dunno why the acceptance of one and shock-horror of the same thing. After all, f**k = fuck, for fuck’s sake.
While I was writing a book (Yes! Here it is Umko 50 Years) I read a number of books on river paddling. Most were written the usual way, but Rob Gouldie described his partner as ‘having a hip deformity causing him to walk like a windscreen wiper;’ he wrote how his exhausted partner nearing the finish of the Dusi Canoe Marathon asked his permission to rest saying, ‘I’m fucked! Can I trail my paddle so it looks like I’m steering?’ He also spoke about climbing through barbed wire fences ‘without hooking your nuts,’ and how Dusi runny guts had them ‘crapping through the eye of a needle.’ And I loved it. I thought that’s how one should write a book, just as you speak around the campfire. Don’t be fake; Don’t be faux-coy; Don’t be prissy. So I kept the “fucks” and the “foks” in my book uncensored. “Customary Paddling Language,” I called it when people objected and suggested I use asterisks. I declined. My book would have no f*cks, no f*ks. It would have the real fucks and foks.
I also believe (of course I’m biased!) that people who swear are on average more trust-worthy, so I think Granma Crews made a mistake in the early seventies in Apache Oklahoma when she didn’t buy a fridge from Stanley Wright. Stan could hardly say a sentence without saying “son of a bitch,” “sonbitch” or “sumbitch”. It was his “whatchacallit”. Some people say “Let’s load that baby up” where Stan would say “Let’s load that sumbitch up”. And he was on form the day Granma went to his shop. They had just about clinched the deal when he said his last sumbitch and Granma Crews decided she’d had enough, slammed the fridge door shut saying “Well you can keep the sumbitch!” and stalked out on Stan who was probably left wondering what he had possibly said to get that reaction! Goodness! He had never heard old Ma Crews speak like that before!
Lauren Martin writes in the link below that if you’re feeling down or doing something wrong, fucking good friends give it to you straight – they don’t water shit down! As for all you honest, trust-worthy people who don’t (often) swear: Start now. Increase gradually. I’m trying to. Update: Successfully . . .
Swearwords are good, descriptive, helpful words, and the criticism of them reminds me of the (equally ignorant) criticism of rap music. I did some reading on rap when Tommy first started getting into it. I must find that bit about the language rappers use. (to come . . . )
Ah, here it is: Back in 2011, New York-based data scientist and designer Matt Daniels thought of Shakespeare’s much-touted vast vocabulary and wondered how rap singers’ vocabularies compared. So he charted how many different words Shakespeare used in comparison to contemporary hip-hop artists. It turns out that a good handful of rappers use a greater vocabulary than Shakespeare did, for the same sized block of lyrics.
Daniels doesn’t draw the conclusion that today’s rappers are more creative and poetic than Shakespeare, but the implication hovers (and the Washington Post said it out loud – see link below).
If you’re wondering who has a bigger vocabulary — Shakespeare or rappers — here’s the quick answer in purely numerical terms. Rapper Aesop Rock used 7,392 unique words, and Wu-Tang Clan used 5,895 – against Shakespeare’s 5,170 unique words.
Daniels used a sample size of 35,000 words per artist. For the rappers, their first 35 000 words; for Shakespeare the first 5,000 words for these seven of his works: Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Macbeth, As You Like It, Winter’s Tale, and Troilus and Cressida. For author Herman Melville, he used the first 35,000 words of Moby Dick.
- see this chart in interactive form at ‘the pudding’ –
Now before old goats start leaping to Shakespeare’s defence (and reflect on Why The Fuck you’re doing that anyway!?), just Stop. Pause. Think. And admit that this info is surprising, and probably went against many oldies’ prejudices and SHOULD give them pause for thought. Rappers are our 21st century poets. You don’t have to like them, and today’s youth don’t have to like Willy Shakespeare.
The feature pic shows the old bank building in the main street in Apache, Oklahoma. Just behind it to the right is Stan’s fridge shop.