Censorship, self and otherwise
Most people who know me (even people who only know the vague online persona version of me) know that I swear a lot. Not an occasional shit or a passing ass. No, I’m a fucking cunt type of person. I’m an every-fucking-other word is cunt type. In circumstances that require a tad bit more decorum, I can easily keep the expletives to a minimum, but if I’m talking to friends or mindlessly venting on Twitter, there’s going to be a fair few curses coming out.
I’m ok with that.
Last year, some douche added me as a friend on Facebook. He then started asking me for shit for his art auction. I told him I wasn’t an artist. He sent me his spammy form message again. I replied with something like ‘I’m not a fucking artist. Quit posting your shitty message on my wall.’ To me, that was that. He pissed me off, and having responded bluntly but politely the first time, he continued to pester me. I commented as I would if some charity mugger tried to accost me twice in one walk up the high street (or outside a tube station).
The guy then sent me a message saying he didn’t like my language and to please unfriend him. I told him that I have no problem with my language, that I look at it as fully utilizing the vocabulary afforded to me by the language, and that if he had a problem with it, it was his place to remove me from his contacts (especially as he had requested me in the first place). I don’t think he ever removed me, but I also haven’t had any more requests for my artwork.
I know other people have removed me, unfriended, unfollowed, and whatever the MySpace equivalent of all that was because of my vocabulary. I don’t really care. In my personal spaces, I use the language I want to use. It isn’t for lack of other words. It’s a deep affection for all words. It’s the same reason one of my favourite pieces of research was a length investigation into the use of the word ‘go’ in two texts. It’s the same reason I love the OED.
The use of such filthy language is something that’s always been an interest to me. I recently read a book (Filthy English by Peter Silverton) that raised some interesting aspects of the issue. The bulk of the book ends up being lists of bad words and their variants, which is cool if you’re an OED reader, but each chapter also included a bit of analysis. One of the most interesting things raised is the minced oath question. If somebody says ‘Oh fudge’, we all know that they were really thinking ‘Oh fuck’ but then stifled themselves before vocally uttering the big evil fuck. But if they’re thinking fuck and we’re thinking fuck and we all know that everyone who hears it, even little kids who know that you aren’t talking about a nice confection that isn’t very good over here in the UK but that’s a whole other blog post, why not just fucking say fuck?
Why limit ourselves at all? Why the cunting hell shouldn’t I say fuck if I’m sitting somewhere talking to somebody else who has the same language I do? Should I care that there’s a kid in earshot? That kid’s probably heard worse. That kid probably says worse.
I have distinct memories of such crudities, but I don’t have memories of other language usages. I remember being a kid on the swings at the park with other kids from my class and, knowing the teacher was well out of earshot, we each would blurt out a swear word on every upswing. Why don’t I remember the first time I said ‘flagellate’ or ‘remember’? Because somewhere along the line, somebody decided those words were shit. Somebody decided that those words weren’t worth creating memories for, and that’s kinda shit.
Growing up, my mom swore, her friends swore, and my grandparents swore. (My mom had a childhood memory of her and her brother asking their mom to not swear so much when their friends were over. My grandmother had a very new world Catholic idea about swearing — say what you want and confess it on Sunday.) Swearing was always there, but it was contextualized properly. These weren’t words that were used in professional settings, or in first impressions, but they were words that were part of the language, and part of the language that we should all know.
As I’ve been job hunting, I vaguely considered reigning in my online swearing, but why should I? If I have personal accounts — like my Twitter account, or like this blog — then why should I artificially limit the vocabulary of it? Maybe I should try giving up another word. Maybe I should arbitrarily forbid the use of ‘fourteen’ in my house. (Thanks to my dear husband for giving me a random word there.) That’s it. Nobody’s allowed to use ‘fourteen’ around me and my loved ones, whether it’s the proper word you need or not. Let’s see how that goes.
I bet you’re already saying ‘fourteen’ now. You want to feel it come out of your mouth. You want to say it. If you don’t say it, it’ll drive you mad. Ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fudge.