Oh F*CK – When is a Swear Word Not a Swear Word?
Above Photo: My rendition of where we’d be had the asteriskers been in charge of the Sex Pistols’ Album Cover.
Readers of Bombed Out! will know that the book would have been half the size had I taken out all the swear words.
I didn’t include them just for a laugh, or for shock value; I included them because the book was based on my contemporary diaries and notes, which contained a fuck of a lot of swearing.
Also, the language accurately conveyed the desperation of a Post-Punk teenager being sucked into the bleak 1980s economic recession in Britain, with no easy way out; so I thought the industrial use of swearing was totally appropriate.
However, I was recently asked to write something about Bombed Out! for a more mainstream British audience, and I opened the article with a quote from the book which included a serious amount of swearing, telling the editor she could asterisk it out if she thought it was too much. (She didn’t).
I thought ‘people will know what the words are, even with the asterisks in them, so I’m not bothered really.’
So I was recently amused to see an interesting, short article by Dr. Roger Crisp, an Oxford University philosopher, who wrote about this very thing, in an article called ‘On Swearing (A Lecture By Rebecca Roache)’ in a journal called Practical Ethics (see link below).
The article deals with whether swearing is actually offensive, morally wrong or harmful, and if so, why. It also discusses the controversial question of whether it is better instead to litter swear words with asterisks.
A philosopher called Dr. Rebecca Roache thought asterisking was a pile of bollocks (I’m paraphrasing, obviously), and was no less offensive than using the swear words themselves, so why fucking bother, she asked. And good on her.
Basically, Dr. Roache thought people should swear more and not use asterisks, although the less potty-mouthed Dr Roger Crisp, the writer of the article, thought, given people’s current attitudes, we should swear less and use asterisks more.
He said: “Given that it is a fact that people are usually less offended by ‘f***ing’ than by ‘fucking’, that seems to me a good reason, in many contexts, for using ‘f***ing’”
I’m no philosopher, but I certainly swear a lot in print and I’m firmly on Rebecca Roache’s side of this argument. And if you think you shouldn’t be swearing in full in something you write, then simply don’t do it.
There were some interesting comments posted under this article (see link below) and one in particular struck me.
One contributor said using asterisks was hypocritical, because while you might feel smug enough pussying away from using swear words by using asterisks instead, you are forcing others who read them to read the full form of the swear word, and I have to agree.
Another commentator, using the same logic, said nonsense made-up comic book swearing, like !&*!?^%$* should be employed if you are so prissy about swearing that you want to insert asterisks into real swear words.
I’m not a fan of asterisking swear words, although in some contexts – like in my own case mentioned above – I’m happy to allow someone else to insert the asterisks if they believe it would be more palatable for a more genteel readership in an article about my book.
I enjoyed reading the polite philosophical disquisitions underneath this swearing article by the way – a refreshing change from the usual abusive, abrasive, bad-tempered Internet comments usually seen below articles and posts everywhere else.
Buy a signed copy of Bombed Out! here: http://www.bombedoutpunk.com/buybook.php
Link to the original article here: http://blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/2015/02/on-swearing-lecture-by-rebecca-roache/