Posts Tagged ‘little lion man’

One of the lesser-known reasons why I thought I might feel at home in Australia is because Australians swear a lot.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am no foul-mouthed harridan. I swear selectively, only when appropriate and only when a more ‘acceptable’ word won’t do. But I don’t find swearing offensive. Swear words are just words with a judgement imposed on them. If you’re looking for an insult, combinations of non-swear words can be more effective.

I hate to say it, but my fellow Scots do have a reputation for peppering their speech with a few too many ‘swearie words’ as they are delightfully known on the west coast. Yes, swearing can punctuate a sentence to great effect. But it should be more of a semi-colon than a comma; tricky to use correctly but amazingly useful when you know what to do with it.

No matter how much they swear themselves, I suspect most immigrants from the UK will find the language used on Australian radio a bit of a surprise. Often British celebrity guests will accidentally let a minor swear word slip, sh*t, for example, and apologise, only to be told that of course it’s f**king alright for them to say that on air. Swear words in songs that would be routinely bleeped out overseas are left in here. This year’s top place in the Triple J Hottest 100 – a kind of chart of the year’s most popular songs – went to ‘Little Lion Man’ by Mumford and Sons, a track with a chorus lamenting how the singer ‘f***ed it up this time’. I heard thousands of people sing it out loud when the band played the Laneway Festival in Perth earlier this year. It wasn’t offensive, just slightly out of tune.

So if I’m so comfortable with all this foul language, you may be wondering why I have gone down the route of using asterisks to disguise – not very effectively – some of the words I’ve used here. My usual writing loosely follows The Guardian’s style guide – which is quite clear that no asterisks should be used.

But given that I’ve only been in this country five minutes, it’s probably best not to risk offending anyone. You never can tell what people will think. I recently told someone I have known for nearly 20 years that I thought I swore quite a lot, and they were visibly shocked – even although I am pretty sure I have never uttered anything much worse than a ‘bloody’ in front of them. So the asterisks can stay on screen; the full words are safe in my head, ready for the next time I have to deal with my mobile phone company or another crazy bit of Australian bureaucracy – what swearing was invented for.

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