Lost for words

30 Aug 2018

A psychotherapist once told me that people need words that they consider "bad", in order to provide some release at times of extreme emotion and anger. An ex-army chaplain, he assured me at the first session that he would not be offended by anything I said. Oddly, I swore very little, if at all, during the sessions. Maybe I needed to feel he was shocked in order for it to work.

Words that were rarely uttered in public are now part of everyday conversation for many of us. I don't swear in public, only at home or in the company of similarly potty-mouthed pals. I find myself quite surprised if a man says he won't swear because I am a lady. If only they knew.

My other half, Spock, returned home on his first leave after joining the navy, and startled his genteel mother on the first morning "What's for breakfast? I'm *******starving". His 90 year old grandad was ex-navy, but even he did not expect "What have you been getting up to, you old w****r."

Today I could walk behind 10 year-olds and hear much the same.

Two things happened recently that got me wondering if casual swearing has reduced the power of such words, when we really need them.

My partner had a disastrous day at a client's factory. His computer packed in, leading to a 3 hour round-trip home to collect another. He shot through the house, effing and blinding. Throughout the day he was muttering to himself. Returning late evening, haggard, he had exhausted his lexicon of bad language, and was reduced to guttural growls and leg-jiggling.

Yesterday, he sent a proposal for some joint financial plans around a group of people we have dealings with. One of these is a deeply unpleasant woman, disliked by all. We all bite our tongues to get her to co-operate.

Within minutes of him sending the round robin, one of the others responded. The title of her mail was an expletive, the same one I uttered upon reading it. He had failed to do as I said, delete the thread of correspondence between myself and my friend. In it, we had exchanged frank views on this other party. I, in particular, had vented, adding comments others in the group had made about her, just for good measure.

When I called Spock to show him, he grasped his head, collapsing into the foetal position on the floor. He had a go at cursing, but it did not help, how could it? Our brains have become immune to the healing power of taboo cursing. There was no comfort to be had. I tried, but ended up giggling hysterically.

So where do we go from here? Do you have any special words that help you in times of crisis? I quite like the American "son of a bitch", but I have not yet tried it out. Maybe rude words in another language would help hit the spot. Ideas please?


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