One of the most common refrains I heard when I first got pregnant was, "Oh you'll have to stop swearing now."
Ever since I was old enough and felt safely far away enough from my parents (so about the age of 22) I have loved swearing.
As a former linguistics scholar, I adore language and the way sounds alone convey message. I love rolling swear words around my tongue and I, naturally, love anything swearing related such as The Thick Of It's Malcolm Tucker.
Growing up was a different matter, though.
As a child I wasn't allowed to use the word 'bum'. No, really. And children who came to my house (which, for at least this reason, was rare) were told off for saying it.
I had to say 'NOGEY' instead of 'bogey'. Nogey! What? I know. Consequently, as soon as I could I revelled in the sounds and thrill of swear words and now I have an obscene potty mouth.
I must admit that when my oldest child Clem (now nearly three) was born, I briefly thought I should temper my language.
But that thought passed fairly soon after a chat with a friend of mine, Sara, whose children were three and six. Sara is, like me, a keen curser and she explained that they had never stopped swearing around their children.
She says, "They know that some words are swear words and they know that not everybody likes it and they are cool with that".
For her, it's about teaching them to use the appropriate language in the right setting.
Heartened by this I decided to stop saying 'fiddlesticks' instead of the other one and writing 'duck' when I don't mean it. (Is there anything more depressing than getting an email from someone with the word 'duck' instead of 'fuck' in it, in case their children read over their shoulder?)
I made a decision that I would no longer alter my language because there were children present. And so far it's had little or no impact.
Of course, being nearly three, Clem repeats everything she hears. And the first time I heard a cheerful, 'Shit!' from the back of the car, I panicked slightly, until I realised that she really had no idea what I was saying or why.
I ignored it and she has never said it since. And the same goes for most other words she hears. I can't help but feel that if I had a shit fit (there simply isn't a better non-swearword for shit fit) about it, she would have realised that she had done something naughty and done it again and again. For that is what toddlers do.
I think the reason I don't really care is that my partner (who also adores swearing and who studied Mediaeval English and so knows loads more bad words than me) and I hardly ever use swear words as insults, at least not to the children or each other.
And if you remove the swear word, telling someone to 'Shut up' is pretty much as bad (in intent) as telling them to 'Shut the f&^* up'.
So we concentrate our efforts on making sure our children are nice to each other and other children and don't shout at them or call them names. This, to me, is far more important than caring whether there's a fricative at the beginning of a word or not.
It seems nonsensical to use daft euphemisms for swear words when the intent is the same anyway.
I want my daughters to grow up loving language, loving sounds and experimenting with them. Of course, nobody wants to hear a toddler cursing but I think it's worse to see a child hit another child and that's what I care more about.
And if you don't like it you can f&^* off (just kidding).
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