Lawks! What are we all saying?
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There are going to be a lot of asterisks in this column, but bear with me.
The furore surrounding SuperSport Rugby World Cup anchor and Jacaranda 94.2 breakfast host Darren Scott and his use of the “k” word got me thinking about swearing in general.
Scott has apologised and resigned after calling a a colleague a k***** at a Jacaranda 94.2 team building event at the weekend.
It’s clear strong emotions and possibly alcohol were at play - and callers to radio stations talked a lot about how stressful situations will “bring things to the surface”. One man told Cape Talk how he found himself flinging horrible racial epithets at a man who was burgling his house - to his massive embarressment as he had black neighbours at the time.
It seems that Scott also used the “f” word in his rant - but it was striking that not one person even paused to note that this was also a swearword. I remember a time when to use that word to a colleague would be cause for grievances and disciplinaries and all sorts of general unhappiness. Is that still the case? F***ing might be fashionable and acceptable at all the right cocktail parties (and is certainly flung around a lot in the IOL office, principally by me) but I know a lot of people who would be shocked to hear it used at all. In my quilting guild, I would certainly never utter it, for instance.
So there are hierarchies of swearwords - and it all depends on context. Some are never acceptable (racially and historically loaded ones in the South African context), and some shift around over time. And in the chattering classes, we all swear quite a lot. Seems to be fashionable.
But think about this: we don’t like small children to use these words at all, do we?
This was forcibly brought home to me one morning in the park when my son was about three. I had told him off, or told him to stop doing something. He was very, very cross and shouted at me, loudly: “F***ing, f***ing God!”. It was funny but it was also shocking - and clearly he couldn’t be going round talking like that. So I cleaned up my act, which was tough to do as years in journalism will turn the nicest girl into a hard-talking woman.
We don’t like little children to swear so we stop them doing it and do our best to set good examples to them.
Later, we start to educate them about when it is okay to say a bad word and when it isn’t (and interestingly, it seems “stupid” is the worst word of all to kids: Jack refers to it as the “s” word). If I swear now, Jack says: “I didn’t hear you say that Mommy”. It’s his little joke at my expense.
But I’m wondering... are we debasing ourselves and our languages by the whole-hearted acceptance of swearing (in whatever context)?
I don’t have an answer to that... but I am going to try not to swear at all (not even a damn!) for a week and see how that works for me. Let’s hope I don’t hit my thumb with a hammer. Report back next Friday...
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