Beware the language most foul
This is about the badly inappropriate use of the English Language by our young people.
Back in the old days (by which I mean the first thousand years of our so-called civilisation AD) educated people would say things like “gadzooks”, and “God’s bodikins”, by which they simply meant “oh, goodness” or “by the little body of God (Jesus)”, but without crossing the line to their religious beliefs.
“On my Life; and by the Holy Bible” was another, but used in self-defence when hauled up before a court.
Even “upon my mother’s life/grave” might count as swearing, because nobody believed for a moment that it was true. It was blasphemy, for which the punishment has always been severe.
After all, in the holy Bible, the third commandment clearly states “Thou Shalt Not Take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain”. Which, in modern parlance, means that thou shalt not swear by God or Jesus otherwise you can expect eternal purgatory in your next life.
If you do not believe any of that, well that’s your problem in the future. Hell and damnation ...
“For God’s Sake”, “Oh Jesus” and other references to the Almighty may well rebound on you later.
The lower classes in London would say “Gor, Blimey!” – God blind me ... if I ain’t telling yer der troof. Fer chrissake, I was a just a teenager in Sarf Lundon and I can speak the lingo, know wot ah mean?
But I knew my manners when at home or at parties. One just does not use such language in public.
This was later changed, between the wars, to “Gordon Bennett” which meant the same, but proved you knew your manners in polite company.
The expression “oh, my God” has long been accepted as irreverent swearing; so it became shortened to “omigod” - and with the advent of texting among impolite teenagers, it has been further reduced to simply the letters “OMG”.
They don’t even know that they are swearing. Funny that, because when you are next up in the witness box of a court of Law, you will be told to swear on the Bible (or is it just the telephone book?) that the evidence you will give shall be the truth and nothing but the truth ... so help me God”.
What a load of traditional and modern humbug! Swearing today has two different applications.
First it is the law of the land that you shall speak the whole truth. Except what happens if you don’t? It’s called perjury - a late Middle English term for swearing under oath (from the Latin per jure and the Middle English āth). Before the law and under my oath ...
The Macquarie Dictionary defines swearing (among other meanings) as “an irreverent or blasphemous use of the name of God; or any profane or irreverent curse”. Please define!
Swearing in the last century meant that ladies might say “Oh my goodness” (Godness). And gentlemen might say “oh my God!” or “for God’s sake” – both swear words and sociably quite acceptable – except for the new Hollywood films wherein the hero says: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” which caused a minor social revolution.
Swearing in the cinema? Whatever next? Well, wait for the Sex Pistols and Adam Hills.
Read your Shakespeare, and pick out the real swear words, both emphatic and blasphemous, and poor Lady Macbeth who swore: “Out, out damned spot” and she wasn’t kicking out the dog. She had just forced her husband to kill two men.
The word “bloody” was originally only used by sailors and the army. Well, they got shot a lot didn’t they? And the walls of the surgeon’s butchery were painted red to hide the blood as arms and legs were cut off.
But its original meaning of “by our Lady” became a euphemism and these days have no meaning other than the emphatic. Especially (and only) in Australia, as in “bloody oath”.
If only the users knew the origins and true meaning of the words.
And then television introduced us to “Ken Oath”, which again is an acceptable replacement for another expression.
The wonderful Aussie, Alf Stewart in Home and Away has his frequent and emphatic use of “strewth” which is of course a contraction of “God’s truth”, but he makes it an emphatic rather than third commandment blasphemy.
There are others, beginning with b, c and f, which no polite or educated person would ever use ... except the mate who had just dropped the hammer on his toe. Just an expletive. However, it is not the word itself (check the French and Italian equivalent). Rather, it is the context and the tone of voice that matters. Is it just an adjective, or an expletive?
If I say, “you are a damned fool ...”, will you or I go to Hell? If I say “You are a ‘Gordon Ramsay’ idiot”, I can expect an argument or maybe a punch on the nose.
We all know what it means, but you just do not say it in public. Unless you are the foul-mouthed cook. Note: I did not call him a chef.
Which brings us back to usage. Every child over the age of 10 knows every swear-word in the dicktionary. You’ve protected them and brought them up to be polite. It’s not what they know, it’s that they know what the word means ... and what and when it is acceptable in public. It’s called manners.
My father spent his life in the Royal Navy. I spent eight years of my life on board ships and in a boys’ boarding school so I learned English, French and Latin. I also learnt a lot about swearing – in the engine room, on the decks, in the Mess – but never before an officer.
It’s as my Dad said – “it’s not what you know that is acceptable. It’s what you do or don’t say in public. That is what makes you either a young lady or gentleman, or just another one of the ignorant or ill-bred ferals on the streets or in the Plaza.”
Every day we hear our young people shout to each other in shopping centres or even on the street: “Get f----d, you “----”.
They all know what the words are. Few know what the words really mean and even fewer have been brought up to know when it is or is not appropriate to use them.
The problem is not with the kids. It’s with the ‘procreating’ parents and that’s being polite! Now, teach your grandchildren just one thing. We all know it, but when you’re out in public, just watch your language.