Thursday, August 02, 2007

American swearing

We English people say "arse" to rhyme with farce. And to us, "ass" (rhymes with mass) is another word for donkey, so it doesn't sound right to say "shove it up your donkey," or "Jesus rode into Damascus on his ass".

I have a theory that American swearing is a lot harsher than English swearing (and differs from Glaswegian swearing in the same way).

Americans appear to have no equivalent of "bugger" (which can be affectionate), "twat" (which is dismissive) and "bollocks" (which is a gentler way of saying "bullshit").

American swearing seems so much more venomous and nasty - "cocksucker" and the "mother-****er" concatenation (even I can't write that one full, it is deeply nasty) are super-aggressive.

Also we tend to find the word "fuck" a lot funnier than they seem to.

For instance, I can say "fuck off" with a smile, meant to mean "you're having me on", in a way that none of my acquaintances - not just friends - will find either aggressive or demeaning.

So I'm sorry if my swearing seems a lot more offensive than it's meant - that's a just another cultural divide, another context where it rains a lot more (the weather is fucking atrocious over here right now).

I'm not having a pop at Americans (inventors of optimism, Elvis and orthodontics), after all my understanding of American vernacular is gleaned from films and television (it's a pop at pop culture) - and I understand that's got to be skewed.

Middle class English people must appear pretty foul mouthed to Americans familiar with their own swearage [misspelt anagram] - especially if perceived as having the same intent to wound.

I fell into this trap in a previous post: adopting an Americanism ("y'all") in a piss-poor attempt at humour, the phrase fell flat and offensive, because, with that adoption, I lost the intended irony (not a synonym of steely) and sounded mean and aggressive.

As a final aside, we find middle class Americans embarrassingly euphemistic (what the fuck does "potty-mouthed" mean, and where is this "heck" that I should go to) - for an over-educated English lower middle class oik like myself, a good chewy swearword like "shite" is a joy to express.

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