What ever happened to the well-turned profanity? When I was a kid (lo, these many years ago) there were a number of local oldsters who benevolently paired with us kids at brandings and the like to teach us the ropes. From these old farts I learnt some of the most creative swearing. Too creative to really commit to memory, the same way that you can applaud a bon mot spoken in casual conversation, but not repeat it to your spouse later.
I myself have always aimed to be a creative curser. (Or is it cursor?) (Cursi?) (Cursive?)I am a past master of the scathing commentary, and well-turned insults trip lightly off my tongue, but somehow I’ve never mastered the art of the creative curse.
I cannot even devise a trademark profane phrase. Oh, how I envied Captain Haddock in the Tintin Comics! With his colourful, alliterative, sensory-rich, still-fit-for-mixed-company epithet of “Billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles!”
I’m not talking about the cutesy technique of substituting benign words for the dirty—no shucks, no by criminy, and certainly no fiddlesticks! If you’re going to waste breath on it, dadgumit, you’ve got to use the right word for the job.
Of course I swear. I try not to, anymore. Studies on swearing say that “men swear to create a masculine identity and women swear to be more like men.” I don’t know about that. But I do know that all through school, I attempted to be sophisticated in my swearing, disdaining the more pedestrian language of my peers. But when I went to work in the oil patch, it was like a repressed personality took over.
I swore like a marine drill sergeant. Some days you wouldn’t see my hard-hat for the blue smoke surrounding my head. My boss once introduced me by saying, “Sure, she’s small, but she can swear like a trooper.” In a weird way, it was a badge of conformity. It helped me to fit into a blue-collar trade, the toughest of the tough.
I know all the reasons why I shouldn’t swear: It’s offensive, in many cases it’s profane. It makes people think less of you, that you are less classy or educated. It’s definitely unprofessional (I think that’s when I realized it was an issue– I was known for my swearing)
But I still long for the renaissance of the well-turned curse. NOT the blankety-blank-blank you blankity-blanking blinker shite, that is so prevalent these days. A delicious curse is a work of art– like a stunning insult, something they ought to compile in large tomes for the education of young minds. Where you combine a prodigious vocabulary to a better use than writing theses no one understands. (If bystanders knew what you were thinking, they’d probably appreciate the fact that they can’t understand what you’re saying a bit more.) Using simile to great effect is another hallmark.
I racked my brain for the last time I’d heard or read a curse or profanity or insult particularly well turned—nothing.
The art is so far gone I cannot even provide you with proper examples.
There are different types of swears:
You have the expletive: Basically a filler word in a sentence, contributes nothing at all to the meaning except in conjunction with another word or phrase. Even “Um” is considered an expletive.
There is also the curse: This is a swear directed at a person or object, declaring all sorts of nasty things about him/her/it and their ancestors and sexual proclivities and also the terrible things you wish would happen to him/her/it.
Profanities involve invoking a deity. This may be used on its own or as a part of a curse.
Now, an example from my humble mind: “You pustulated piece of Belgium excrement, O bastard son of an androgynous ass, may Posiedon rub his watery balls across your scabrous visage!”
Look, I SAID I wasn’t good at it. Quit snickering!
Go my pretties! Go forth and build the great renaissance of modern speech! Go! Go! And remember me in your memoirs