Friday, 16 May 2014

16/05/14 - Fahrvergnügen

There was a really irritating programme on TV a few years ago about a teenager in America who didn’t like swearing. Pretty mundane subject matter, you may think, but this kid was a nauseating little prick – annoyingly smug about his moral superiority in never saying a swear-word, and acting like everybody who ever swore was some kind of mentally deficient lout who only cursed because they didn’t have the intelligence to otherwise form a coherent sentence. The thing that really riled me about the boy was this quote (remembered from some time ago so possibly not verbatim): ‘In a situation where other people might use the f-word, like if they’d hurt themselves or they were really angry about something, I’d never curse. I’d just say “farfegnugen”.’
Now, you can probably see the flaw in his logic here. Imagine him banging a nail into a wall, accidentally thwacking his thumb with the hammer, and yelling out ‘Oh, farfegnugen!’. See, that is swearing. The word itself is immaterial, it’s the intent behind it that makes it, by its very nature, an expletive. His pathetic moral crusade is entirely without foundation; he is a hypocrite thanks to his own stupidity.
(‘Farfegnugen’, incidentally, is a bastardisation of ‘fahrvergnügen’ - a German word meaning ‘driving enjoyment’, used by Volkswagen in various ad campaigns, and adopted by cretins [divorced from any meaning, but just as a funny-sounding word] to add to their arsenal of horribly twee phrases; the sort of people who say ‘Jiminy Crickets’ and ‘absotively, posilutely’. Hateful.)

The kid was wrong. Swearing is magnificent, it offers a rich and versatile palette of emotions and possibilities. There are many words that can arguably be categorised as swear-words; the obvious likes of ‘fuck’, ‘shit’ etc can’t really be disputed, but there’s a certain amount of debate over such light expletives as ‘crap’ and ‘bollocks’ (Google ‘Sex Pistols obscenity trial’ for an interesting case featuring the latter). But let’s just pluck one rude word out of many, and look at the word ‘fuck’.
Are you familiar with The Wildhearts? You should be, they’re a national treasure. Anyway, they released a track in 1996 as a b-side to the ‘Red Light Green Light’ EP entitled ‘The British All-American Homeboy Crowd’, which featured a sample of comedian George Carlin musing on the versatility of the word ‘fuck’. Here’s what he says:

‘Perhaps one of the most interesting words in the English language today is the word ‘fuck’. It is one of those magical words which, just by its sound, can describe pain, pleasure, hate and love. It can be used as a verb, both intransitive – ‘Mary was fucked by John’, and transitive – ‘John fucked Mary’. As an adverb – ‘Mary is fucking interested in John’, and as a noun – ‘Mary is a fine fuck’. It can also be used as an adjective – ‘Mary was a fucking beautiful girl’. As you can see, there are not many words with the versatility of fuck. Besides the sexual meaning there are the following uses: fraud – ‘I got fucked at the used car lot’; dismay – ‘Oh, fuck it!’; trouble – ‘I guess I’m fucked now!’; aggression – ‘Fuck you!’; difficulty – ‘I don’t understand this fucking job’; displeasure – ‘What the fuck is going on here?’; incompetence – ‘He’s a fuck off’; ignorance – ‘Fucked if I know’; apathy – ‘Who gives a fuck?’; defiance – ‘The fuck you can!’…
I know you can think of many more uses, but with all of these uses, how can anyone be offended when you say fuck?’

It’s all about appropriate usage, of course. You shouldn’t just randomly say ‘fuck’ to a bus driver or a child in a playground. And sure, the sort of people who say ‘fuck’ in every sentence willy-nilly possibly do fit into that preachy teenager’s profile of lacking the intelligence not to swear, but that’s not the whole story. Casual, functional, day-to-day swearing is not something to be vilified – when used properly, ‘fuck’ is fucking useful. And anyone who has a moral objection to that… well, they can fuck off, can’t they?

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