F*** the expletives!

When the television series Father Ted was first broadcast in the 1990s, it proved life-changing for a friend of mine. An academic in her 50s, she had always avoided any swear words or other expletives. For those who might not have come across it, Father Ted was a totally crazy (but very funny) series, featuring the exploits of some entirely dysfunctional Catholic priests on an island off the Irish coast. One of the priests, Father Jack (past his most agile mental state) liked to shout out a string of expletives, starting with ‘Feck!’ – an Irish adaptation of the internationally more familiar ‘F***!’ Anyway, my (English) academic friend suddenly decided that ‘feck’ wasn’t a real swear word and that she could properly use it – and from that moment on her language was suddenly peppered with ‘fecks’ at every available opportunity. She infected her students, and whole classes of that generation were overheard telling each other to ‘feck off’, and referring to ‘fecking’ this and ‘fecking’ that.

They would probably have felt quite at home in Dublin, where the F-word, with or without the local adaptation, is constantly in the air. So much so, that it has almost ceased to be an expletive or a swear word, it is just a filler. I was sitting next to a group on a public transport vehicle recently, and literally every sentence had one or more F-words; until one of the group accidentally banged his head, and as he shouted out in pain for the first time since he came within earshot he didn’t use the F-word – it was too normal a word for him to serve as an expletive.

I confess that I can very occasionally be overheard using the F-word, usually for deliberate effect. And in fact, I take the view that swearing can have a purpose. Some studies suggest that the judicious use of swearing can have a positive psychological impact and relieve stress. But I suspect that this is lost entirely if swearing is just a verbal tick that is peppered through a conversation with no meaning at all.

So maybe we need to think again about the language that is used in popular conversation. Maybe we need to encourage a more judicious use of expletives. In fact, F*** all this swearing!


PS – For those who might want to hear Father Jack in full fecking form, you can get some extracts here.

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One Comment on “F*** the expletives!”

  1. tatoca Says:

    i have no problem swearing in english, but i can’t quite swear in my mother tongue (portuguese). i have no idea why…
    ps: i’ve been living in dublin for 7 years now, and will be here another while as the move to sligo won’t happen for probably another 3 years or more

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