06 March, 2013


How do you feel about strong language? Personally, i don't use it, which makes me an anomaly among my colleagues. I am capable ~ my lips can form the words. You'll have to take my word for it, but i just spoke aloud one of the naughty words. The thing is, i wasn't actually using it, just saying it as an example; this is a part of the difference between use and mention. I can mention the words; in fact, be warned, i will be, a little later in this piece, some of them at least. It's just that i don't use them. Prudery? Maybe. Puritanical? Possibly. Who i am? Quite likely. Perhaps from mine upbringing.
Thinking of childhood, i remember the very moment i realised that profanities actually meant something, that they weren't merely collections of letters put together then never spoken by proper people. Judging by where it was, a particular school room, i must have been eleven or twelve; some of my classmates were talking, one said something about a person he saw, “shovelling shit” the previous day. I didn't know what this shit was ~ and i certainly wasn't going to ask! ~ but clearly it was a real substance.
More interestingly i think, i also remember where i was, though i can't narrow down the time so closely, the first time i saw one of these words in print. I spent a good portion of my high school career, nearly three years to be exact, skipping classes and reading in the school library ~ when i bothered to go to school at all. During that time i read a huge amount, a lot of it science fiction; in an SF book i came across a reference to two people having sex, making love as i thought it was always called. The author so shocked me when he said that they were fucking that i had to shut the book for a moment to recover. I honestly don't think, looking back from several decades on, that i thought adults, mature people (which surely writers were), used such language.
This use of profanity in writing is what i find most interesting at this point. As i say, i don't use it in my life; curiously, that extends almost completely to my writing, as well. I have used so far in this piece a couple of words, and it might seem to you ~ in fact, i hope it does ~ that they fit in the flow quite easily and naturally. To me, writing, it felt quite awkward: I found myself slowing down as i typed, not quite willing to commit myself to the word, although i knew, had known from before i started writing, that it was coming and i was going to use words that make me uncomfortable.
There is, in fact, a little sex in a roundabout way, in my current work in progress. The strongest, most explicit language i have used yet is, “I was instantly aware of something under the fabric of her shirt. Two somethings, in fact.” I actually embarrassed myself a little as i wrote that some time ago, felt that i was saying something a little bit naughty that perhaps might not be approved of; it seems likely that there will be no stronger language.
I might have matured a bit since i was first shocked at school; nowadays i can skip over profanity and blasphemy as i read with almost no hesitation at all. One book i read recently, though not erotic, was filled with such language, so much that i mentioned it in the review i wrote. I was still able to read it without embarrassment, with enjoyment.
Shock is not too far away, however. I recently read a short work which contained shit, bitch, fuck, and cock. It was, oddly, the last of those which surprised me most; perhaps because the author is a friend, a chaste woman who oughtn't know that language. Mind you, she's probably chased too, since she, like her two daughters, is a blonde bombshell; perhaps that's where she's learned the language.
All of which goes to show me that i still carry the imprints of my childhood, although i have learned what all of those words mean now and can run across them and continue with barely a blip. Maybe one day i'll be comfortable enough with them to actually use them myself.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't think you'll use them much because they are often used so widely that they are not distinctive in their meaning, and they are therefore less helpful parts of language, in my humble opinion. I definitely don't like them. Sometimes I think them when I am EXTREMELY angry, but they never help me feel better afterwards.