My 12 year old son has started swearing. He uses “the F word”, as I will euphemistically call it in this opening paragraph, although it’s spelt out in full further down. As I wrote earlier this year my daughter, who is now 10, has been exposed to plenty of swearing at football matches, but fortunately has still not been exposed to the rudest of rude words. I realized this when she told me that someone at school had used “the C word”. “The C word?” I asked her. “What, you mean …?” “Yes, daddy, you know,” and she hesitated before whispering, “CRAP.” Still some innocence left in our world.
I am not too precious about swearing. I do it myself, but rarely in front of the children. I didn’t swear as a 12 year old, and got a bit of stick from some of my school-friends as a result. I started when I was 14, figuring I was old enough to swear in front of my parents. I wasn’t the sort of child who dropped his t’s and h’s when he was with his mates and then turned into Little Lord Fauntleroy when he was at home, though some of my contemporaries adopted this way of speaking. I swore, as appropriate, with my mates, and at home, and, though I say it myself, became rather skilled at it. I would never make the mistake that Malcolm Tucker (as played by Peter Capaldi) once made in “The Thick of It”. His swearing was legendary, epic and generally to the point but in one episode, when waiting for someone’s response to his latest outburst, he said the following: “I’m fucking Andrew Marr … I’m all ears.” This should have been: “I’m Andrew fucking Marr … I’m all ears.” It would have prevented any ambiguity about exactly what he was doing. Perhaps I could find some TV or movie work advising people on how to swear properly. Characters in a certain kind of British movie, generally played by ex-public schoolboys, will say things like “fuckywankbollocks” which nobody in the real world would ever say, and just thinking about it (and typing that stupid fucking word) has made me clench my teeth and feel rather queasy.
Anyway, here’s the joke mentioned in the title of this piece, which I first heard in the 1970s.
One evening a mother and father are discussing their children’s language, and how foul-mouthed they have become. The mother says, “I’m sure the teachers are going to say something about it. The other parents are avoiding me, and they won’t let their children play with our boys. It’s gone too far.” The father says, “Leave it to me. First thing tomorrow, at breakfast, I’ll sort it out.”
The following morning the children (three boys) shuffle into the kitchen. “What do you want for breakfast, son?” the father asks the eldest boy. “Fucking cornflakes,” the boy replies. The father gives him a clip round the ear (this was the 1970s, after all) and says, “That’s enough. OK? This has gone far enough. There’s going to be some changes round here. Understand?” He then asks the middle child, “What do you want for breakfast, son?” He too says, “Fucking cornflakes.” The father gives him a clip round the ear and says, “I told your brother, and now I’m telling you. This has got to stop. OK? I said I’d sort this, I’m sorting it.” Finally he asks the youngest child, “What do you want for breakfast, son?” The boy hesitates, then says, “I don’t know, but I’m not having fucking cornflakes, that’s for fucking sure.”