On Wednesday night I innocently went to Tesco to change Beautiful B’s sky remote. I figured I would have a mooch around the store while I was there fully expecting to spend on books. There is a stand for newspapers in front of the entrance and newspapers are fixed on the side of the stand so you can read the headlines as you walk into the store.
One of the newspapers read something along the lines of “…….for the b*)$a%d who stabbed me 27 times” – replace the asterisks with letters as it was spelt out in full.
Now I am not a prude, ask any of my friends they will tell you but I was stunned, so much so that I cannot remember what the first part of the headline was.
When I was a child you didn’t hear any swear words on TV before the 9pm watershed. I desperately wanted to see the film Gremlins at 12 but couldn’t because it had a 15 certificate. I may have looked 15 but I wasn’t going to risk the wrath of my parents by breaking the law. No PG film had a swear word in, not even ‘bloody’.
Over time, ‘bloody’ appeared in programmes before the watershed and a certificate 12 was introduced into the British film industry to allow some swearing (and occasionally ‘brief nudity). This enabled more revenue for the film that younger teenagers wanted to see but weren’t able with the 15 certificate.
Now, ‘bloody’ and worse appear in PG films and I have long thought it a shame that we live in a society where it is acceptable to use such language in front of a child let alone in a film. That word and worse are regularly used in TV before the watershed and essentially the only programmes safe for children to watch are those for very young children.
I’m not saying that I don’t swear, I do and I have slipped up in front of Beautiful B more than a time or two which serves me right for swearing in the first place. I am not proud of that fact; after all what example am I setting for my child? Not a very good one.
I am not that much of a prude or blinkered enough to think that children do not swear in school; after all I am sure I swore like a trooper! Though I didn’t dare home.
My sister was once bugging me in the kitchen. Mum was busy making pies or similar and I’m arguing with my sister telling her she was bugging me and to leave me alone. I said at one stage “Stop bugging me, you are a little bugger” using ‘bugger’ as a descriptive word. Mum swung round and asked me 3 times what I had just said and each time I replied innocently “She is a little bugger.” Being cocky, each time I replied I moved closer to my mum until it suddenly dawned on me that mum was repeating the question to get me to think about why she was asking and that the word must be a swear word when I hadn’t meant it that way.
What shocked me on Wednesday was the ‘level’ of the swear word and the fact that it was contained in a newspaper headline for all to see. Surely using that word as a headline in a major newspaper sends our children the message that the word is perfectly acceptable to use in society and normal conversation?
When I was 23 my sister swore in front of my mum and I nearly fell off the chair in shock at my mum not reacting reminding my mum that had I used that language 3-4 years ago I’d have got more than I bargained for.
Today, Beautiful B would not dare swear in front of me or at me. She has only swore at me in temper once, over 5 years ago, and she was confined to the house for 3 weeks as punishment for it despite me knowing that she hadn’t meant to say it.
Beautiful B has far too much respect to swear at me or in front of me. She might swear away from home but she knows that it is not acceptable and so doesn’t use it at home. She grew up being taught that swear words were disrespectful and she has never used them in front of adults.
However, if as a society we are willing to allow such language to be used as a headline in a newspaper; even if that newspaper is a tabloid what are we teaching our children? Surely we are teaching them that it is acceptable. By allowing it in general media they are surrounded by it on TV and in newspapers and surely over time it will become perfectly acceptable to use such language in day to day conversations.
I accept that society has to move with the times, there are many things that I am grateful for as I have grown older (mainly my iPhone and iPad) and I fully endorse change and relish it as part of my working life. I cannot see, however, how allowing swear words to become part of normal society can be useful for individuals or good for the country as a whole.
Over time, at what stage does a swear word move from being a normal part of language to being derogatory? What sort of image would a person portray if that sort of language was part of general conversation and how does it show any sort of respect to your family, friends, peers and elders?
I am getting old, I will admit it. I dread getting on a bus and having to listen to the language that our children use in public, yet I used to be one of them. They think it makes them look good when in fact they sound awful and disrespectful. I still swear and yes, it is wrong and something that I must curb more than I do and I am not pleased with myself for using such language.
Yes, the man who stabbed the woman in the article 27 times was clearly a disturbed and nasty individual and deserved whatever prison sentence he was given but surely there are better ways of describing him that by using a swear word.
The move to such language being acceptable in mainstream media has happened in 30 years; I can only imagine what it will be like in another 30 years and as old as this makes me sound I worry for our society; I really do.