Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Wash your mouth out with soap

I was out walking the dog tonight: across the street from us was a group of boys playing outside the houses opposite. They'd have been about eight I'd guess. I heard snatches of their conversation - one of them in particular. It was "fucking" this, "fucking" that... and the odd thing was it wasn't an argument or a foul-mouthed tirade of abuse - the word was just a normal part of his vocabulary. His mates didn't use it and I idly wondered where he'd picked it up from. School perhaps, or home, maybe?

I remember the first time I said it at school. It was at secondary school (I don't recollect ever hearing it at junior school) and I was twelve going on thirteen. We were playing a game in the playground and I got a bit tongue-tied and it slipped out by accident. I blushed furiously. The game stopped. My classmates were gobsmacked and fell silent until Robin King exclaimed incredulously "Brooksbank just said 'Fuck'"!! *shock, horror* I tried to explain, but to no avail. It was almost like some weird coming-of-age ritual: I'd said the f-word and so I was now grown-up - no longer an innocent little child. This was in the days before it was allowed to be used on TV or the radio, and certainly none of us dared use it within earshot of the Masters.

I never dared use it at home. My parents never swore in front of us as kids, still less at us - not until I was a teenager and my mother if roused to a fury would let rip with a "bloody" or two. I knew better than to do it back! It's odd, because even as an adult after I'd left home I still never swore in their house. I've never gone in for using it in public at all in fact. It wasn't considered good etiquette at work: we couldn't do it it front of the customers of course, but even out of earshot of those who were the cause of our displeasure there was an unwritten rule that the f-word was a bit much.

So I tend to save it for those occasions when something or someone really drives me to it. Which is using it to its best advantage, in a way: I mean if you use it as an everyday element of ordinary speech like that eight-year old was doing this evening, it ceases to mean anything.

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