Sometimes a gesture can convey a message more satisfactorily than words. Why tell someone to fuck off when you can just give them the finger? We like to think that gestures can transcend language, or that they are a more universal form of communication, but we only have to look at the difference in the offensive gesture repertoire of North American and UK English speakers to know this is not true. In fact, Americans are deprived of a particularly satisfying offensive gesture, and it causes much mirth for Brits, Australians and New Zealanders.
The ‘up yours’ gesture is made with the index and middle finger raised and parted, and the palm facing towards yourself. It has similar connotations to the ‘middle finger’ gesture, but with an added element of defiance. The hand may be moved up and down for added effect. The gesture is demonstrated by this besuited chappie:
(Image from Morris et al. 1979)
Some months back on the blog, Stephen Chrisomalis counted how many swears we can give. Quite a lot, it turns out. We can give a fuck. We can give two fucks. We can even give a million fucks. We can especially give three fucks, based on Stephen’s numbers. And this doesn’t even begin to account for all the shit’s and damn’s we can give – or, really, don’t give. See, when it comes to giving a fuck, we’re ultimately playing a zero-fucks game.
It’s a while since I wrote a proper post here: time has been scarce. To make up for it, here’s a bumper set of links on swearing from around the internet.
How much do we curse?
The ever-expanding Timelines of Slang.
Scheiße! Divergence in West Germanic faecal vocabulary.
‘You whose shit comes out leftwards!’ The grammar of Hua insults.
For your weekend
ruding reading pleasure, a roundup of swearing-related stories and items from around the world.
Olaf doesn’t give a fuck.
An enlightened approach to children swearing.
The UK election campaign in The Thick Of It quotes.
‘Fuck This Court and Everything that it Stands For.’
For your weekend reading pleasure, a bumper batch of sweary shit from around the internet. You may have seen some of these items before, especially if you follow @stronglang on Twitter, but I bet there’s something new here even to devotees.
Romance writer KJ Charles has a great defence (and examination) of swearing in fiction, showing its importance in conveying character and mood, among other things.
I’m not ashamed of my name, says Mr Fuck (pronounced ‘foo-key’).
Swearwords help boost awareness of sign language at Adelaide Fringe festival.
There’s been a lot of anger and sarcasm in bookish circles at the ‘Clean Reader’ app that (ineptly) replaces profanities and vulgarities with sanitised alternatives: ‘chickenshit bullshit’, as Strong Language‘s @VoxHiberionacum pithily described it. Lionel Shriver has a smart response in the Guardian: