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Banned for the Effing and Blinding

Discussion in 'Café Life' started by Katie-Ellen Hazeldine, May 9, 2017.

  1. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

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    Trouble at a school in Florida sparked by effing, blinding and blasphemy in 'The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night', by Mark Haddon.

    I have given this book to a private pupil of mine to read, extra to her English GCSE curriculum activities. I trust her father (a very correct gentleman, Somali) won't be upset but if he is, well, he has asked me to set her reading that will stretch her understanding, and I shall :)

    I will let you know :)

    Here is the article

    What do you think? Does it worry you in your own writing, especially for children? I know my own children have taught me words and expressions fit to make my hair stand on end.


    Dolpo Child (Source, not sure, think it might be Himalaya, by Eric Valli)

    dolpo child.jpg
     
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  2. Marc Joan

    Marc Joan Venerated Member Founding Member

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    Depends how it's done. I get the impression some writers stick in a few swear words to make their writing seem real and edgy. In fact, it just makes it dull and annoying, at least to me. Same with people who continually swear in real life. Fine to turn the air blue when you've crushed your thumb with a hammer and then trodden in the cat's water bowl, who doesn't, but people who use swear words as though they are qualitatively no different to other adjectives are sometimes a little tedious. Curses should be used for effect, not as routine. And people who think otherwise should just @!!@#?! off.
     
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  3. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

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    Swear like you mean it or don't fooking bother. In this book, the autistic narrator has his own particular responses or lack of; the writer wasn't trying to be edgy, though he could have left out a couple of words without detracting from the picture.
     
  4. Robinne Weiss

    Robinne Weiss Venerated Member

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    Ah, yes. I'm again struggling with how to make Kiwi kids' dialogue authentic without swear words...especially since the character narrating the current book is exactly the sort of kid who would swear frequently. Words that would curl my toes are...just words...here. So commonly used by even young kids, that they've lost any impact...except in the rest of the English-speaking world (who I hope will read my books...)
     
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  5. Robinne Weiss

    Robinne Weiss Venerated Member

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    Like anything else in our stories, I think swearing is fine, provided there's a reason for it. Sex? No problem, if it's important to the plot or to character development. Violence? Again, if it's necessary. Do any of these things to excess, and it's just tiresome for the reader. I've just finished reading a series that had a stellar plot line and engaging characters, but was so full of gratuitous, detailed sex that neither advanced the plot nor helped the reader understand the characters that I nearly threw it down in disgust. Take out the majority (not all) of the sex, and it would be an awesome read. As it is, I can't recommend it to anyone...
     
  6. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

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    Authenticity, just toned down...because this it is the art of representing reality, not copying it, or novels would be chock full of admin for adults, bedroom tidying for children (huh) tooth-brushing and sitting on the loo.
     
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  7. Paul Whybrow

    Paul Whybrow Venerated Member

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    I use swearing in my crime novels, though nowhere as much as real coppers and criminals swear! Read any Irvine Welsh novel, if you want an example of how crudely those in the underworld express themselves.

    My detective protagonist occasionally loses his temper, though he also deliberately uses swearing for shock effect as he's known to be mild-mannered.

    Remember that old expression 'it's the only language he understands'? Well, I've been in a few potentially violent situations, where if I hadn't sworn the person I was talking to wouldn't have taken me seriously. Sadly, this included confronting a 10-year-old armed with a knife, who I caught vandalising the community centre I managed. He came from a home where his alcoholic parents neglected and verbally abused him, so using the voice of reason to explain why what he was doing was wrong got me nowhere...he only responded when I started to swear!

    In my writing, I use swearing to do the job. Just as you wouldn't pour a gallon of oil over a door hinge to stop it squeaking, so a few swear words solve a problem, (and help the word count); a little goes a long way.

    It's worth remembering, that children are often wildly politically incorrect, using racist, sexist and loads of other 'ists' as insults. When I was a schoolboy, back in the 1960s, the favoured insults were 'spastic' and 'cretin' (possibly because of the Thalidomide Scandal), along with 'poof' for anyone weak or effeminate, and 'wog' for anyone with brown skin. These days, despite increased openness about gender and sexual orientation, the word 'gay' is still used by youngsters in a dismissive way to describe something that's not good enough, a bit weak or boring. Linguistically, 'gay' has travelled a long way from an old adjective for fun and frivolity, to a noun for homosexuality, and on to adjectival slang for the tedious.

    Another curious thing about swearing and throwing insults is that it alters depending on the status of who's doing it...and to whom. Words that would be thought offensive if said by someone from outside the group of LGBT or ethnic minority are freely used in descriptive ways and as tokens of humorous affection. When I lived in Atlanta at the time of 9/11, I worked with more men from other races than Caucasian, and they said 'nigger', 'coon', beaner' for Mexicans, 'Chief'' for Native Americans and 'Apoo' (from The Simpsons) for anyone from the Indian subcontinent...and don't get me started on anyone from the Arab world! I, of course, was a 'honky'.

    Similarly, gay people use 'queer', 'poof', 'queen' and 'faggot' without fear of censure.
     
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  8. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

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    I sometimes say cripple about myself, and people try to correct me. Not having it, but I never use that word about anyone else. And I am not denigrating myself either. It does not actually come from a dark or negative place, but actually, a buoyant, defiant, optimistic place. Not everyone would get that.

    So, hobbling along one day on my stick, my brother, whom I adore and who adores me right back, says, 'bloody hell; can't you go any faster than that you f*cking cripple?!'

    No, I fooking can't.

    And he is sad about it, so am I, really, but all the same, stuff happens. That's just life, and we are smiling. Smiling.
     
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  9. David Newrick

    David Newrick Well-Known Member

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    I don't use expletives in my writing. In essence it won't stand the test of time. Was there swearing in Beowulf's time? Was there swearing in Shakespeare's time? Was there swearing in Dickens' time? Was there swearing in George Orwell's time? Was there swearing in Agatha Christie's time? Was there swearing in J. K. Rowlings time? Of course there was and plenty of it.

    There has always been swearing, but does it really advance what you are trying to say in your writing? I was at a performance last month where they were using swearing - if I hadn't been so utterly spineless I would of walked out. Instead I sat through it and cringed at the banality of it. To me swear words are often gaps in the text, just as they are gaps in any contextual setting. You can easily write, '[character x] soaked his sentences with swear words, just as he had always done.' Is that not just as valid?
     
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  10. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

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    Language is a living, evolving thing. The spoken word is not inferior as a driver of linguistic evolution, so all words at a writer's disposal could be viewed as just as valid, even made-up words, depending only on the intended effect or desired response.

    Putin isn't allowing it, one understands, four words in particular are on a banned list and he is one savvy operator, but ?


    How Late It Was, How Late, by James Kelman

    Ach it was hopeless. That was what ye felt. These bastards. What can ye do but. Except start again so he started again. That was what he did he started again … ye just plough on, ye plough on, ye just fucking plough on … ye just fucking push ahead, ye get fucking on with it.

    This Be the Verse, by Philip Larkin

    They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
    They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

    The Miller's Tale, by Geoffrey Chaucer

    This Absolon gan wype his mouth ful drie.
    Derk was the nyght as pich, or as a cole
    An at the wyndow out she putte her hole,
    and Ansolon, hym fil no bet ne wers
    But with his mouth he kiste hir naked ers
    Ful savorly, er he were war of this.
    Aback he stirte and thoghte it was amys,
    For wel he wiste a womman hath no berd,
    He felte a thyng al rough and long yherd,
    And seyde, "Fy! Allas! what have I to do?"

    And Rochester, oh my word.
    Does one find any merit in it? A Ramble in St James's Park.

    But I do agree, it can get BORING.

    I draw the line at fluids; you know what and maybe snot. Blood, puke, wee, poo, fine. OK. I won't put the book down necessarily, but if there's a scene with you know what, fluids graphically jettisoned, ewww, I'll straight away turn the page.
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2017
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  11. Marc Joan

    Marc Joan Venerated Member Founding Member

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    Good old Chaucer (shakes head)...
     
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  12. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

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    Disgoostin'
    *Tuts*

    Rochester, incorrigible.

    And nor are his desires above his strength
    His sceptre and his - are of a length.

    Speaking of his friend, Charles 11, the um, king.
     
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  13. Marc Joan

    Marc Joan Venerated Member Founding Member

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    Reminds me of the story of how when the Maharajahs went tiger-hunting, their savvy servants would use a special tape measure, of 10 inches to the foot, to measure the unfortunate beasts that got shot. . . Whatever the boss has, you'd be wise to pretend it's bigger than anyone else's.
     
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  14. Matnov

    Matnov Well-Known Member

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    Personally I adore a bit of bad language. Nothing like a good old swear to lift your spirits. And having had a chain smoking, well spoken elderly lady in a wheel chair who swore like a trooper as one of my main characters, then I am am all for characters to curse as much as they might if you were to meet them on a Clapham Omnibus!

    Naturally my own kids receive the metaphorical washing out of mouths with soap should they use such language, and I would never swear in front of them, but in terms of fiction, then bring it on.

    And who does not laugh at things like this? I know its wrong but (other peoples) small children swearing always makes me smile.

     
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  15. NickP

    NickP Active Member

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    In my opinion, no, it's not valid at all. Mealy-mouthed and prissy are two words that immediately spring to mind. Writers who are preachy or judgemental about their characters tend to sound exactly that.
     
  16. NickP

    NickP Active Member

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    Twelfth Night - the holy Bard:

    MALVOLIO
    (picking up the letter) My goodness, this is my lady’s handwriting!
    These are her C’s, her U’s and her T’s, and that’s how she makes her big P’s. It’s definitely her handwriting, no doubt about it.

    (And Sir Andrew immediately repeats it, just in in case you missed the joke)
     
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  17. Paul Whybrow

    Paul Whybrow Venerated Member

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  18. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

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    Shame the tiger didn't eat 'em and measure their tastiness factor on a scale of 0-10.
     
  19. Patricia D

    Patricia D Venerated Member

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    My characters swear but not nearly as much as their real life counterparts would. Times change - back in the day, no one said fuck. Now just about everyone does, although we tell the children not to.
     
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  20. Geoff

    Geoff Well-Known Member Founding Member

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    I can remember my father using the word 'bastard' when I was about eight. I was so shocked that it preyed on my mind for the next two days.
     
  21. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

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    He must have meant it; presumably it was out of character?
     
  22. Geoff

    Geoff Well-Known Member Founding Member

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    Very out of character. I think that was the only time I ever heard him swear out aloud.
     
  23. Robinne Weiss

    Robinne Weiss Venerated Member

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    Yeah, I knew I'd come of age when my dad said the word damn in front of me. Said carefully out of earshot of Mom, with a wink.
     
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  24. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

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    Hee, I knew I'd come of age when my stepfather lost his temper out on a family walk, a disagreement about the best route up Great Gable, and called me, my mother and sister a rude word, and my mother said, ignore him, and I said how dare you use that word to us?
     
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  25. Luciferette

    Luciferette Active Member

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    That reminds me of an anecdote my sister told me last week. She was out with her partner (her wife, actually) and a couple of male friends in Leeds. One of the men - I'll call him R - is super-camp, as out and proud as it gets. They were walking past a gang of numbskulls and one shouted, 'You fucking faggot,' at R. He was horrified, and said to my sister, 'WHAT did he say?' Sis said, 'Um...he called you a fucking faggot.'
    'Oh, THANK GOD for that,' said R. 'I thought he called me a FAT GIT.'
    Just goes to show - what's offensive to one is not to another :)
     
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  26. Katie-Ellen Hazeldine

    Katie-Ellen Hazeldine Venerated Member Founding Member

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    [​IMG]

    How vair dare they!

    [​IMG]
     
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