In Defence of Curses

*This post will contain very strong language start to finish so if you are of a sensitive disposition or are easily offended don’t be a cunt about it and fuck off now*

I recently had a poem published in Penguin’s ‘Poetry of Sex’ Anthology edited by Sophie Hannah. As you may gather from the title it was a collection of poems about the ‘Physical Act of Love’ i.e. Shagging, Fucking, Doing it, nobbing, slap and tickle, how’s your father, knee trembler in the alley, boning, screwing, buggering, dicking, the old in and out, scissoring, on the job, posh wank, bit o’the other, etc etc etc.

My poem has come in for a bit of a pasting it must be said: A friend of mine described it as fucking misogynistic (which I don’t think it is) and a reviewer in The Times described it as “irredeemable in its witless procession of profanities”. What I am not twatting well going to do is write a long piece defending my poem. Fuck that. Its a poem, it speaks for itself, it can defend itself and certainly doesn’t need me to stick up for it. I am going to defend my use of language within the poem as this seems to be what has warranted such arse-fondling ire.

‘Haikus to Fuck To’ is my poem and as the name implies its about fucking. Not having sex, not procreating, not ‘making love’, not shagging or anything else; its about fucking. To my mind fucking is a great description. There are plenty of different types of sex but the word fuck and in this case its verb form is wonderfully articulate and summons up the exact sense of mind I wanted to present. ‘Making love’ sounds like a slow and romantic act, sex just sounds slightly dismissive like the couple who have been at it for a few days and are relating the third bout, a shag sounds like something you’ve done that’s a bit naughty spur of the moment, and there is nothing wrong with any of the above and I have indulged in all of them but I wanted to write a poem about Fucking. Fucking is carnal, lustful and passionate, something the word itself relates wonderfully. It also imparts the necessary secrecy and the, not in the way you imagine, violent nature of the act itself. Fucking was the perfect word. ‘To fuck to’.

Swears are shitting necessary. Stephen Fry said it really cunting well when he said “The English language has its stately homes and castles and equally has its slums”. As any economist or sociologist knows extreme wealth cannot exist without extreme poverty, likewise buggering sumptuous words that impart the best in us cannot exist with out the cocksucking hideous and mother fucking blunt elements that portray the worst. We need swear words to counter balance what we say everyday, it is in a very small way an act of resistance on our part to use them in everyday speech let alone in a book or public address.

Curse words as they are sometimes known are just fucking that. Words of curse.

“curse |kəːs|


1 a solemn utterance intended to invoke a supernatural power to inflict harm or punishment on someone or something …”

So says the dictionary. These could be long speeches condemning the object of hate to a woeful end or a “magic word” that cast its spell over something in hopes of destroying it. These curses were no doubt well thought out and – early on – probably in Latin so they probably extended to some sort of versification i.e. They were lyrical. This meant they struck a subliminal chord with someone hearing it so it sounded cruel and nasty even if you didn’t know what it meant. This is immediately apparent in our ‘curse words’ now. The way we have whittled down our swear words to almost extreme economy is because not only do they have the weight of hundreds of years of usage and the arseing horrible meanings they inflict but they are also perfectly sculpted works of auditory art.

Lets look at the big three: Shit, Fuck and Cunt. All four letters and they all end with those crashing stops – ‘T’ and ‘ck’. They are physically harsh to say. You cannot soften the ends of these words without dropping the letters entirely. The ‘T’ at the end of shit can be dropped but the blunt end is still implied as the ‘i’ sound is unresolved. Fuck sweeps open with the ‘F’ sound before crashing to a halt with the double tap of the ‘ck’. That’s impossible to deaden. Cunt is still considered the worst. Not least because of its sexually derogatory and sexist overtones but because it is the harshest to say. It starts with a hard ‘c’ a hard ‘uh’ sound followed by a hard ‘en’ and finishes with a solid ‘t’ that is practically a smack in the face. There is no letter you don’t pronounce and every single one is a hammer blow. These words are tailor made to be curses and could not be anything else, even without their connotations.

For this reason I still maintain they are works of fucking art in the English language and are some of the only words that carry impact or make people shy away or simply refuse to say them. In short that is gold dust for a poet. Words being a writer’s main currency, swear words – like archaic or forgotten words – are like shit-gargling £50 notes. But like anything of this nature it is the rarity that makes them impactful, overuse and repetition will kill a word or at least strip it of its meaning (another thing poetry deliberately dwells on, as I discussed previously). There is a wonderful South Park episode where they are allowed to say Shit continually through the episode and has a counter tallying up the amount of times it is said in the episode. It literally treats Shit as a “Word of Curse” and it awakens a group of magical warrior knights who bring down armageddon with a giant fire breathing dragon. Obviously this is hyperbole for comedic effect but it rings true. Having slums next to every stately homes, school, hospital and museum might be a bit much in city planning, likewise with language. Swear words serve a purpose but overuse removes them of their jizz-palming purpose.

My poem used these words for purpose. I tried my best not to repeat myself and use as many differing swear words as I could within the poem so it would have an accumulative effect. The words I used in the poem that are deemed not fit for children or mixed company: Tits, Cock, Dick, Wank, Pussy, Cunt, Cum, Fuck and Minge, each word being perhaps wince inducing but with such high density and consistency would make for an impactful poem. What I think was more unpleasant for people was their sexual context, it is a very anatomically descriptive poem and such strong language in a sensitive area of discussion was perhaps too much for some. In this way it worked too bloody well and what I discovered is how for all the right wing press’ arguments for us being a promiscuous society with no morals or taboos left to break, it seems a few little four letter words set in an ancient Japanese poetic form can still turn people’s stomach and rile them to revolt. For this reason swear words are really sodding GOOD. They make a point better than most words and in less time and syllables than other words.

Having lived alone for some years now, I found my language gets worse and worse (or more colourful as I like to cunting think); akin to that sailor talk people frequently speak of. As such when out with friends I find I swear a lot more freely and realise people look slightly embarrassed or at least look around the pub to ensure no one heard me. I remember getting sent indoors while doing a reading of a play about Thomas Beckett at school due to a, in my opinion highly literate and articulate, slew of profanities. The reason I resist the use of the word ‘Profanities’ is for this reason. The idea that these ‘Curse Words’ being ‘magical’ or in a true sense ‘pagan’ are “Against God” and frankly: Fuck that. There is far more cause for ‘Profane’ language than saintly language. We have obtained more from nautical and service language in everyday speech than anywhere else so “sailor talk”, to me at least, is far more valuable than any saintly speech. So my delightful reviewer who (for some reason) perceives wit as being the chief weapon in a poet’s arsenal, declaring my poem in equally cliched journalistic alliteration a “procession of profanities” I consider the shart-darting highest compliment.

In many ways this has made me think of swear words more as ‘Curse Words’ than before because they do almost seem to cast a magic spell. Like JK Rowling’s brilliant subversion of “Abracadabra” in Harry Potter into “Avarda Kedavra”, the worst of the ‘Unforgivable Curses’, the ‘Killing Curse’, swear word’s meanings have altered and changed but their power is still present. Depending on how or where or when they are delivered a curse can be as powerful as those magical curses wizards and witches would bring down on their hated enemies. Love me or loathe me for my appreciation of such ungodly words but as a self-proclaimed “wordsmith” they are some of my most precious fucking tools in my cunting wonderful shitshed.

Poo cum titty willy bum.

P.S. The path to good swears is a long one and the path to enlightenment is and always will be Viz and its saintly work ‘Roger Mellie’s Profanisaurus’. Buy yourself a copy and cry with laughter. Contrary to newspaper criticism some of the sharpest and funniest WIT comes from portmanteau swearing, crass imagery and out-and-out silly words. Pick it up in a bookshop, pick a page at random and scare people around you by collapsing in a fit of very loud guffaws. You fucking well deserve it.