Donald Trump swears a lot, perhaps more than any other major presidential candidate in history. I’m not sure that should bother us. Most Americans swear now and then and plenty of us swear more than Mr. Trump swears during his public appearances. I have no idea how much he swears in private; I’m pretty sure it’s none of my damned business.
Little has changed, it seems, in 400 years: Not even the great William Shakespeare was above shaming women on the basis of their looks, if his The Comedy of Errors is any measure. But at least he left us with some memorable wordplay, I suppose.
It’s that most wonderful time of the year with the usual outpourings of peace and goodwill to all (wo)men – no more so than those noble elected representatives of the Irish houses of parliament. Yesterday saw some choice usage of the terms ‘harpies’ and ‘hemorrhoids’ within the Irish Senate, something which met with an uproarious reception. The Irish houses of parliament are no stranger to ‘unparliamentary language’, but the real juicy stuff is perhaps not that well known. And so, for the season that’s in it, I hereby present: Unparliamentary Language (Irish Style) – Part One: Sweet Fuck All – a whistle stop tour of the use of strong language(s) within the official records of the Houses of the Oireachtas – i.e Dáil Éireann (Lower Parliament) and Seanad Éireann (The Senate).
Note: Ceann Comhairle, Leas-Cheann Comhairle, Cathaoirleach are official Irish titles for ‘speaker/deputy speaker’ i.e. the chairperson.
First up, a wonderful and gingerly tentative use of the mild term ‘feck’, which was not uttered as an insult, but rather within a particularly interesting report to a committee concerning the extent to which the people behind a new postcode system were going to in order to avoid any rude words:
We’re delighted to share an extract from the new book From Skedaddle to Selfie: Words of the Generations by Allan Metcalf. It will be published next month by Oxford University Press, which describes it as “a lively look at the words that have come to define different generations in history” – including fuck.
Even major dictionaries declined to include fuck until quite recently, yet it now appears without fuss in an impressive range of cultural domains. So how did fuck make the leap? In the text below, Metcalf traces the word’s emergence out of largely disreputable use into ever more mainstream contexts.