The collected wine-tastings & wine-ramblings of one who prefers to describe wines with metaphors, not percentages

Five reasons to swear — about wine or anything else

A youngish man with scrunched eyes screams an obsenity

1. The Kiddies Are Safe, Thank God!

Let’s get this boring one out of the way first: the only reason I can see for not swearing is that of exposing young children to THE AWFUL, AWFUL, CORROSIVE BADNESS of it. And I don’t think many young children are going to be reading sites like this.

They have better things to do, and I’m jealous of them for it.

I mean, hell, I was a massive fucking loser when I was a child (plus ca change), but even Young Parn wasn’t so much of a loser that he was reading wine blogs.

2. Swear Words Are Indecorous

Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori.

I don’t think the First World War poet Wilfred Owen was massively into decorum. Nor am I. The difference is, of course, that he was writing slightly (if understandably) iffy poetry about a vast human tragedy and I’m writing a slightly (and less understandably) iffy blog about alcoholic grape juice.

But I think we can agree, Wilf and I, nevertheless: decorum is a sham. Decorum is a wretched, weak-bladdered means by which to intimidate the uninitiated, to make the underling fall in line, to belittle the outsider. Decorum is a way to make you feel shame because you don’t know what the words are that the Proper People use. SO JUST SHUT UP, YOU IGNORANT SERF, AND GO STUFF MY CODPIECE.

The youngish Old Parn screams an obscenity once againIf I write that a wine is ‘fucking good’, I reckon that’s actually kind of inclusive. That’s what it’s meant to be, anyway. Because no way does anyone think that ‘fucking good’ is The Proper Way To Describe A Wine. To me, using language like this is like hanging up a big old sign saying, ‘In my book (and on my site) you don’t have to use the ‘correct’ words to express a valid opinion (just so long as you don’t use the word toothsome)’.

I mean, it’s obviously okay — really, truly, more than okay; it is the only thing that fucking matters in the slightest — to describe this wine stuff in any way you damn well please. And, yes, I must grudgingly admit that this even extends to use of the word ‘toothsome’. Even though, I reiterate, NOBODY KNOWS WHAT IT MEANS.

Anyone who relies on decorum is probably also quite stupid. Because decorum is a weapon of the stupid.

3. Swearwords Are Joyous

It feels fucking good to swear. I imagine you’ve tried it yourself. Isn’t it nice?

It’s a verbal ejaculation — yes, thank you, I can use that word — and as such it’s a thing of joy. It’s a trumpet-blast of feeling. It’s life-affirming, it’s defiant. It’s like all the best things about humanity in one deliciously blunt four-letter syllable. A buttery, crumpetty nugget of life.

Surely I can’t be the only one who finds verbal abandonment both fascinating and sexy? No, it turns out I’m not. It’s there — all over the fucking place — in Chaucer, in Shakespeare, in Joyce. Who’d've thought?

And if you should come across someone who mocks the revelry of your swearwords, pity them for the arid, joyless puritan they are.

Thus, the kind of fool who’d mockingly quote your swearword back at you (perhaps inserting, with a tin-eared editorial flourish, a double exclamation mark?) is probably also the kind of fool who’d try to insult you by paraphrasing a self-deprecating pun that you actually wrote yourself, as if that were somehow meant to achieve or prove something other than a chronic dearth of wit.

(My example is hypothetical.)

4. Swearwords Are Anglo-Saxon And Therefore They Are Awesome

Fuck. Cunt. Arse. Shit.

Don’t be afraid, I’m not about to start into that cringe-inducing ‘comedy’ scene from The King’s Speech. [Shudder.] No. But I am going to talk about Englishness.

Or Anglishness.

You see, all the best words in this sexy mongrel language of ours are Anglo-Saxon. Well, okay, maybe I should qualify ‘best’ — I guess I mean ‘most evocative’. Gerard Manley Hopkins, an English poet from back in the 1800s, is good on this: he pretty much refused to use anything but Anglo-Saxon-derived words in his poetry, because words derived from Latin (words like ‘derived’, in fact — or ‘evocative’ or ‘refused’ or ‘exclamation’ or ‘deprived’ or ‘misguided’) have a clinical, cold, precise, impersonal feel to them. They’re somehow more remote, more official, less affecting.

Profile of our hero halfway through exclaiming a word beginning 'sh—'They’re not where the music is, in other words; not where the gut-punch is.

No, the music is in the old, old words. In the fist-clouting, axe-bitten, mud-tramping Anglo-Saxon stuff.

And right up there at the top of the pile are the most defiantly Saxon of them all: the swearwords. Old as the soil and the blood and the rock and the shit of England before it was even England.

Show me an English swearword that’s not Anglo-Saxon and I’ll show you a shit swearword.

5. Swearwords Are Just Words

Yes. I know. I’m wheeking this one at you from left-field. But those words that we call swearwords are still, in fact, just words. The clue is in the ‘word’ part of the word ‘swearword’. If you look carefully, it’s there. At the end, after the ‘swear’ bit. Stop me if I’m going too fast (Jesus, stop me) or using the word ‘word’ in a way that you find confusing, ambiguous and/or offensive.

But — listen! It’s about to get good! — they really are just words. And anyone who’s an adult and relatively well-adjusted surely ought to realise that they’re no more or less legitimate (or indeed remarkable) than any other means of expression. And that pointing them out and making an issue of them causes you to look like a child squealing and giggling at his first potty shit.

What I mean to say, I suppose, is —

A high-contrast photo of a youngish man shouting a swearword at the camera

THEY’RE WORDS FOR PITY’S SAKE JUST WORDS MADE OUT OF LETTERS WHICH ARE JUST SHAPES MADE OUT OF LINES WHICH IMITATE SOUNDS THAT ARE MADE BY OUR MOUTHS JUST LIKE ANY OTHER SOUNDS FOR PITY’S SAKE SOUNDS MADE FROM NOISE WHICH IS MADE BY AIR AND MOVING PARTS OF OUR BODIES WHICH ARE MADE OF SKIN AND BEARDS AND TEETH AND OTHER THINGS AND YES I’LL GRANT YOU SKIN IS SOMETIMES A LITTLE BIT RUDE SOMETIMES BECAUSE SOMETIMES IT SOMETIMES MEANS SEX AND THINGS WHICH ARE EMBARRASSING AND REGRETTABLE AND GIVE ME NO PLEASURE AT ALL TO RAISE OR DISCUSS IN THIS FORUM OR INDEED ANY FORUM BUT STILL IT IS JUST SKIN FOR PITY’S SAKE WHICH IS MADE OF MOLECULES AND ATOMS AND HAIR AND ALSO FOOD AND HOW CAN ANYTHING MADE OUT OF FOOD BE BAD OR EVEN DEBATABLE?

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case.

15 Comments to Five reasons to swear — about wine or anything else

  1. May 10, 2011 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    Fucking RIGHT. RT @billicatons
    SWEAR MORE when you’re writing about wine. I’m serious. Here are 5 reasons why. http://bit.ly/jJPHPP

  2. May 10, 2011 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Salutary (& poss NSFW) reminder to not take wine/life too seriously by @billicatons http://bit.ly/kLwnEz

  3. May 10, 2011 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Let’s allow much greater freedom of expression, yes … though I might argue that swearing (often just done for effect with no great criticism value) may be unnecessary. I have chosen, for decorum or other reasons, to swear-off their use in my own stream

    BTW, I love the photos! ;)

    • May 10, 2011 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      I thought it was Guy Ritchie in the pics.

  4. Harley's Gravatar Harley
    May 10, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Do you use swearing as a natural form of self-expression, or as a stylistic blugeoning device to drive home the point that wine writing need not be so highbrow?

    • May 10, 2011 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      Oh!

      Oh!

      Interesting question from Mr Pope!

      I think at first it was (a), but has shaded into (b) at times. I mean, I’d write with swearwords in other personal writings — other blogs, emails &c — so my instinct would be to do likewise in this blog. That instinct is then reaffirmed by my accompanying belief that wine writing is often ripe for demystification.

      IN PERSON, of course, I can barely bring myself to utter the word ‘Damn’.

  5. May 10, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    RT @GrapedCrusader: Wine and food matching is out; it’s all about wine and profanity matching these days. Check out @billicatons take: http://bit.ly/jJPHPP

  6. May 10, 2011 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Well done.

  7. May 11, 2011 at 1:34 am | Permalink

    Ha! Great post ~> RT @alawine: Five reasons to swear — about wine or anything else http://t.co/Inh18Th #wine

  8. May 11, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Ermmmm…

    We wear our learning lightly, but – the Wilfred Owen of whom you say, “I don’t think the First World War poet Wilfred Owen was massively into decorum.” – this wouldn’t be the Wilfred Owen who wrote a poem called “Dulce et Decorum Est” by any chance?

    Different sense of Decorum, but still…

  9. David's Gravatar David
    May 12, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Don’t you find anything odd about first claiming that a) decorum is not worthwhile and b) swear words are just ordinary means of expression, while later saying, “I’d be deservedly flayed if I sprayed out a profanity-laden email to parents & students”?

    If you’re not concerned with decorum and you believe swearwords are just words, then… I guess you’re just stifling your inner nature and personal beliefs in order to keep your job? Probably explains why you’re posting on this blog, actually…

    P.S. Impressed by your 10 more-or-less identical Facebook links to this blog post.

    P.P.S. @”The Sediment Blog”: you are either a troll or need to READ THE ACTUAL POEM. That’s the WHOLE POINT.

  10. December 1, 2011 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Swearing is good for your health… Decorum is a wretched, weak-bladdered… http://t.co/Mf00u7G8

  1. By on May 31, 2011 at 1:54 pm
  2. By on June 25, 2011 at 11:43 am

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