March 29: the enduring traction of the f— word

I never really want to swear. I am disappointed when it comes out. I can do it strategically, to anounce mock anger or to exhibit genuine frustration theatrically, though sometimes it just bursts out despite me. The f— word has an enduring traction. It might be the baring of the teeth that makes it work, something primeval, or the particular combination of consonants that gives out its own particular scent, for there are oral records of its popularity going quite far back, though you will do well to find this echoed in written texts. Writers have mostly been prudish about this kind of thing. I am sometimes surprised to see that in ‘Eastenders’ the characters are uttering words like ‘flipping’ or ‘frigging’, the f— word seems so ubiquitous these days. People have said that the f— word is a defeat. You have been found lacking in your vocabulary, unable to come up with anything other than the most vulgar and grubby of expletives. Thet’s one way of looking at it. But how do you explain its triumph? The way I see it is this. On the rare occasion I utter the f— word, it is not a defeat, It is a communing with all the hundreds of millions of minds, the hundreds of millions of frustrations and preoccupations that have found a split second of release in that syllable. For one glorious, dreadful moment you are participating with the world, you are finding concord with the common store of experience that finds exorcism through the shamanism of language. It is a rare moment of magic. Why fight it? Just be one of the many. Take your place within the hordes for we are legion. You can go back to your lonely self one split second later.

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