A couple of weeks ago, I read with interest about a recent study that suggests people who are fond of swearing are pretty bloody clever. It looked at the common belief that people who use swear words do so because they don’t have any better words to express themselves. It turns out that’s just bollocks.

bollocks

What the researchers found was that people who say ‘fuck’ a lot actually tend to have enormous lexicons. Or thereabouts. I may be paraphrasing just the slightest bit.

I Swear.

I’ve always enjoyed a good swear. As a child, all I knew about swear words was that I wasn’t allowed to say them. Naturally, I was then extremely drawn to them and would make them up in fabulous combinations to say at school. Things like ‘Shit Bastard’ or ‘Arse Head’. I was never one to run around shouting obscenities, mind you. I just liked to mutter them to myself or a select friend here and there, for my own enjoyment or a wee dash of shock value. As I got older, I noticed that my Mum was quite the inventive swearer. There was a woman she worked with that she absolutely couldn’t stand who she referred to (only at home, to Dad) as ‘Shit Lips’, for example. Her expressions were often colourful and never left you in any doubt about how she felt. As I got older, the rules around such language loosened up quite a bit for me. It felt quite therapeutic at times- the awful ex-boyfriend who was renamed ‘Dick Weasel’, for example. I come from a family of smart people; the frequent expletives in my home were certainly not for a lack of words to choose from. It’s just that sometimes, the best word to use just so happens to be a swear word.  To me, the people who consider swear words to be in indication of poor intelligence or class are in the same boat as the people who refer to sarcasm as nothing but “the lowest form of wit”; that is, they put it down because they don’t understand it or aren’t any good at it.

kardash

Sarcasm.

Sarcasm might be a lower form of wit than others but it’s still a handy tool in a box of tricks designed to provoke a laugh or an outrage. Mostly, I think it’s bloody funny. I mean, don’t you just love being on the receiving end of a sarcastic quip? What’s not to like about a cutting, ironic remark designed to mock? Here’s something interesting: a study has shown that sarcasm is good for your brain. When someone directs a sarcastic remark at you, it forces your brain to switch to a more abstract thinking mode, which boosts your creativity. So when someone slings a sarcastic comment your way, they are actually doing you a favour by making you brighter and more creative. If it weren’t for sarcastic people, our ability to problem-solve, for example, may well be impaired. In fact, I suggest everyone reading this sends a sarcastic letter to each and every member of the current government on a weekly basis to see if we can’t effect real change here!

jokes

Time & Place.

I think, in general, most people know the basic etiquette around swearing and sarcasm. Your Great Aunty Ethel’s funeral is not the time to loudly talk about your fuckhead co-worker. Picking up the kids from school or daycare is not the place to discuss what a dickwad your neighbour is. Your gynecologist probably doesn’t want a sarcastic response when asking about your sexual history. However, some people just can’t quite master this aspect.

fuck up piss it

Swearing and sarcasm are skills.

And like any other skill, they take time and practice to learn to execute well. Some people are naturals; born to drop a well-placed “holy fucking shitballs” into a conversation or piece of writing, just so. Other people need to learn. They should watch the naturals, note their timing in conversations, read their words and see how it’s done. Excellent swearing is a fucking art form, I shit you not.

Sarcasm is another art that I think is slightly easier to master. It’s something my bigger kids are just starting to get a handle on. They’ve all been guilty of accidentally upsetting someone while being sarcastic because they are still learning where the lines are and the difference between sarcastic banter and outright put-downs. It will take practice, but the two teen girls have already got a natural hormonal advantage when it comes to eye-rolling, sighing and smart-arse responses. I think they’ll do just fine as young sarcasm queens. Their slightly younger brother will grow to be adept at abstract thinking and creative pursuits from being on the receiving end of all their practice.

The youngest, at 3, has already shown her potential as a naturally talented swearer. Just the other day, she got her blanket tangled around her head and arms and yelled “I’m fuckin’ stuck!” before giggling madly.

oops

Is there such a thing as excessive swearing?

Yes….and no, not if it’s done well. As the aforementioned study suggests, swearing is an enhancement to one’s language skills and fluency. However, I can’t even tell you how many times I have stumbled on to website articles or blog posts full of poor spelling, poor grammar and lacklustre composition that the writer has upended a bucket of swear words into, in an effort to make it edgy or cool. These ones will also tell you how sweary they are, while heaping even more context-less strong language onto their readers. I can’t bring myself to spend much time on blogs or websites like that, because it feels like the writer just couldn’t be bothered to make their pieces interesting or readable. They just want to revel in the apparent shock value of dropping swear words.

swear

Unfortunately for them, the shock value wore off for me when I was about 14. I feel like swear words should be used to elicit a response in the reader that is more than just momentary shock. You want a response that hits the belly; the word you choose should either hit them hard in some way or make them grin and chuckle.

Some people can write an 800 word article where 300 of those words are either ‘fuck’ or ‘shit’ and it can be a absolute cracker because all the words around those ‘fucks’ and ‘shits’ are designed to showcase them. Other people could say ‘fuck’ 50 times in a piece the same length and that is all you’d see because the rest is so poorly expressed.

In short, swear as much as you fucking well want to. Just do it well. Do it like the clever fucker that you are, with impact and gusto rather than the random sprays of an alley cat. Be spectacularly sarcastic when the moment presents itself. Don’t use it to wound if you can help it; use it to laugh. Everyone can enjoy that, since sarcasm is so low-brow, right? Smile and nod at those too high-brow to enjoy it, all the while knowing that the more sarcasm you expose them to, the better off their minds will be. They better fucking thank you later!

#IBOT @ Essentially Jess

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  • Natalie @ Our Parallel Connect

    I do like to read a little swear word or two in a post as often I think it gives the impact desired. I am a swearer and I use to control it more around my kids. I have realised that I have now failed and I have given up – not trying to swear that is.

  • writeofthemiddle

    I swear – but mostly only use the big time F word when pissed off about something or feeling really passionate about something (which is a lot LOL). I say other less dramatic swear words regularly!!! I don’t swear on my blog – just can’t do it. Must be the sweet catholic girl upbringing *cough*. The first time I said the F word (learnt from the little girl next door), I got in HUGE trouble and soap was rubbed on my tongue. To this day I would never say the F word in front of my mother, even though I have hear her say it!!

    • Soap on the tongue- eww! I think quite a few avoid swearing on the blog- to each their own, I say!

  • I fucking love this! Despite my squeaky-clean family blog, you can bet I excel at the art of swearing and sarcasm. I have so many fav sayings that I like to drop outside of earshot of the kids. Not always successfully. My best times are date night outings when we grownups are in the car together and can say whatever we fucking-well want to!
    One of my cousins is a Doctor and he has always been a great inspiration to me on the wit and sarcasm front.
    Great post!

    • Haha, that is awesome- you think you know a blogger, eh?! 😀

  • Preach it sister! Swearing is an art form, and those that don’t appreciate it are missing out on a whole level of subtext and meaning. Swearing when I speak can be a great release, and can also emphasise what I’m trying to say. Swearing when I write adds flavour, personality and can bring a piece to life.

    • Definitely an art- I feel a bit sorry for those that don’t appreciate it! 🙂

  • You simply cannot be a builders wife without having a knack for dropping a well placed fuck, or having the sarcastic wit better than your male counterparts. An intelligence I love and appreciate. 🙂

  • Denise Mooney

    I agree with every fucking word Amy. I have an uncle who can insert swear words into the middle of words and he’s one of the cleverest fuckers I know. Swearing can enhance what you’re trying to say – sometimes other words just don’t do it for me. Great post x

    • Sounds as if you learned a lot from this uncle! Love it!

  • I’m not a swearer, and as a not a swearer, my tolerance for gratuitous language is probably lower than most peoples. There are times when it is hilariously funny. Hugzilla is always making me laugh. There are other times when I think its unnecessary, but I’m quite happy to admit that I’m in the minority there, and should probably walk around with a t-shirt saying prude.
    But then people would probably think I was being sarcastic, and that might backfire. Hmm…
    I am a HUGE friend of sarcasm for humour purposes. Not for nasty ones.

    • Ah, to each their own, I say! But you do have an appreciation of the art if you like Hugzy 😀

  • I rarely swear but I do it with great purpose and wisdom. I indulge in several healthy bouts of sarcasm each day. It’s what keeps me sane. 😂

    • Haha, sarcasm for health, it’s real, I tells ya!

  • I have a potty mouth, I TRY not to swear in front of the kids but sometimes it just slips out and then we have the awkward moment in public where the 2 year old says ‘Where’s my fucken dummy?’. At least it was in context I guess! And I love sarcasm!

    • I know, right? When they swear in context is kills me- I know I shouldn’t laugh but omg, how can I not?

  • I just can’t do it, when I swear I sound like a complete idiot because it’s just not me. I don’t really give a shit (ooh, you like that or am I just spraying like an alley cat) if others swear, but me, well, I’m just not that good at it!

    • LOL! That’s okay too- it may be just that it isn’t your voice! Make up for it with sarcasm, maybe? 😀

  • JM Peace

    I swear at work but not at home. And I put the ‘c’ word in my novel. I never use that word but no other word would do in that one particular sentence. I felt bad because I knew my mum would read it 🙂

    • I love the c word. I use it probably too liberally!

  • I used to swear a lot before children. Now they tell me off for even the occasional swear word. I don’t tend to swear much when I write, but maybe I should. I don’t shy away from it, but just never feel the need. Perhaps I’m not reaching deep enough. And sarcasm is my second, no wait, third language. I was brought up (and hurt) on it by my father and as a twenty-something used it indiscriminately, assuming that people understood it was sarcasm. Sadly, mostly didn’t and I wasn’t very popular.

    • To each their own! I do love sarcasm for humour- not for harm 🙂

  • I was so good & rarely swore when my kids were growing up, so they think it’s hilarious when I drop one nowadays (have obviously relaxed a bit! Or gotten smarter 😉 … Not sure which) #teamIBOT

  • Why wasn’t this study around the first time I accidentally said ‘fuck’ in front of my parents?! 😛 It’s funny though, in my family, shit and piss weren’t considered swear words but fuck and bloody were. After moving out of home, my swearing levels went through the roof. But yep, time and place is certainly something I practice. Like I don’t swear in front of my clients. Though I have to resist the urge to laugh when they swear in front of me and apologise for doing so.

    This study is fucking awesome! 😀

    • Well, better late than never, eh? Pass it on to them so they know now that it was just an early sign of your cleverness!

  • I love a good swear! I think it’s because I came from a home where “damn” was a swear word 😉 it just made all the really bad ones that much more attractive!

  • I grew up in a house where crap was a swear word! So you can imagine the trouble I got in to when, after hearing my next door neighbour say it, I then yelled “You’re a fucking asshole!” through the wall at my sister when I was 12! It was the first time I’d really sworn in true anger and it felt so good! There is nothing like a good swear to help relieve tension and anger. I’m really bad some days, and good other days, but have to curb it around Mum, she hates it! Punky knows that “fuck” is a bad word and tells me off for saying it, and I do try not keep it on the DL in front of the kids. Having your 2 year-old walking around and singing “For fuck’s sake!” over and over is not a good look!

    When it comes to sarcasm, that is my forte. I love it. I also used to get told off for answering absolutely every question I was ever asked as a teenager with sarcasm. My parents, my teachers, everybody used to tell me off because I couldn’t reply to anything without a sarcastic response. I was even told to curb it in my essays for English, because apparently my teacher wasn’t looking for a sarcastic essay response to the question about Huckleberry Finn in year 12. I couldn’t help it though, it was such a shit (to me) book and the question was so inane, I couldn’t help framing my entire essay around my sarcastic answer! I got an A for the essay because my English teacher knew me well but was told that if I wrote something like that in the actual HSC essay, I probably wouldn’t fair as well unless I got a marker with a really, really good sense of humour (and sarcasm radar!).

    • Oh dear, I bet the fucking asshole remark wasn’t well received. If only they knew it was a sign of intelligence! I’d love to read that essay 🙂

  • YES! It’s all about context, for sure!