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Here Comes Treble: Eee, By Gum

"When my 3-year-old daughter innocently came out with a good, strong, ‘Damn it!’ after her doll fell out of its pram, I resolved to replace all swear words with other words that could, as easily, become habitual, but be totally harmless when uttered in public,'' writes Isabel Bradley.

“Oh fiddlesticks!” I exclaimed, as I knocked over a glass sending red wine spilling across the white table cloth.

“Surely that requires onions, too,” Leon grinned at me. “After all, it is quite a serious swear that you’re swearing.”

If the inclination to use foul language becomes a habit, it can cause offence to those within hearing. The movies are full of offensive words, with cops referring to people as ‘sons-of-b…..s’ and ‘mother-f….r’. Indeed, the ‘F’ word, as it has become known, is liable to offend someone even when referred to as ‘The F Word’. It slips out without a thought if one isn’t careful, particularly in the heat of the moment, say, when a toe is stubbed, or one drops a plate of soup. As for ‘s...t’, well, it’s almost lost its verbal smell, it’s used so often.

The strong language that my father studiously avoided using in front of my mother and I: ‘bl…y’ and ‘b…er’ are almost tame when compared with some of the horrid expletives people use these days, but still jar on a sensitive or prudish ear.

When my 3-year-old daughter innocently came out with a good, strong, ‘Damn it!’ after her doll fell out of its pram, I resolved to replace all swear words with other words that could, as easily, become habitual, but be totally harmless when uttered in public.

So I resurrected ‘fiddlesticks and onions’ for serious occasions. This is an exclamation used by a good friend of mine which struck me as amusing when I first heard it. As it begins with a good, explosive ‘ffff’, it immediately releases tension, and often ends in a giggle, dissipating the annoyance that called for an expletive to be uttered in the first place.

Instead of the ‘b’ words that Dad controlled the usage of, I now exclaim, ‘Bother!’ ‘blow!’ or ‘dash!’, or all three at once in extreme cases. I ‘blast’ things that annoy me. Instead of ‘damn’, there’s ‘darn!’ Sometimes, when frustration gets the better of me, I’ll say, “Oh, for FIVE six seven eight nine….”

The purpose of swearing, unless it has become a habit, is, after all, to release tension caused by pain, anger or frustration. There are plenty of inoffensive words one can use in place of the very unpleasant terms that seem so popular today. Just make them up as you go along, or borrow from previous ages: ‘goldarn!’, ‘oops!’, ‘snakes and ladders!’ are a few that spring to mind. ‘Phooey!’ is good, and ‘shiver me timbers!’ can raise a laugh and defuse many a nasty situation.

There are few situations that call for hard-core swearing, after all. In conversation, talking about an ‘f….ing beautiful car’ is completely unnecessary, while talking about a car that is a master-piece is so much more imaginative and intelligent. Or it could be a ‘fabulous’ car if ‘F’ is on the tip of your tongue.

Of course, there are times when nothing else will release the tension, such as the moment I was videoed climbing the steepest of steep serial hills on the Otter Trail, my back-pack weighing down each step. The thankfully silent version clearly shows my mouth repeatedly forming the notorious ‘F-word’ as I crest the top of the hill only to be faced by another and another… It is a moment I have found hard to live down.

And I have to say that Hugh Grant’s opening line in Four Weddings and a Funeral has me laughing uproariously each time I see and hear him cursing a blue streak as he realises how late he is…

Swearing should be used only in extreme emergencies, when normal, acceptable words fail us, otherwise we will be in danger of offending everyone we know, including ourselves.
Until next time…. ‘here comes Treble!’

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by Isabel Bradley

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