Thursday, 23 February 2012

Giving up F words for lent

I like words like flabbergasted, flummoxed and fumigate. I won't be giving up those but there are other F words that have crept into my vocabulary which have no rightful place.

One of my twenty goals for 2012 was to give up swearing. I haven't been terribly successful so far this year.  I feel it has become a growing issue in my life. F words and S words and B words which add nothing to the meaning of what I say.

Even worse, I seem to have lost control over when I choose to use them. A few weeks ago I went climbing at Glasgow Climbing Centre. We have been experimenting with jumping off from the top of the wall with some slack on the rope to get more used to the feeling of falling (which will hopefully allow us to take reasonable risks in order to reach harder holds). We've also been supplementing that with actually falling...

Anyway, I was lead climbing and needed to clip my rope in at the top to complete the climb and add another safe hold for the lower down. My belay partner could not see me from the angle of the wall. I had really been struggling to climb and once I had clipped in decided to just throw myself off and experience another short fall.

The only problem was I hadn't warned my belay partner - he hadn't seen me clip in and thought I was pulling on the rope to reach up to the clip. I fell maybe five or six metres before he was able to pull the rope back and stop me. I'm fairly sure everyone in the centre must have heard the F word I shouted out.

We learned a couple of important lessons about climbing safety that night - when belaying always hold the rope rather than letting it slip through fingers; always warn your belay partner before letting go. I was also struck by the thought that if my belay partner had not stopped me, did I really want that word to be my last?

I analyse everything and when I analyze my speech I find that it has stopped making sense. Have you seen Battlestar Gallactica? To get around the TV censors and possibly to add a bit of otherworldliness to an otherwise American society they replaced the F word with frak.

To all intents and purposes the BG f word was identical. It was used in the same situations: "Do you want to frak?" "Frak off!"

One of those statements makes sense, the other doesn't handle analysis very well. What does someone mean when they use the term frak off or the more common version? Go away? You fool? Good joke? Get out of my sight, if I ever see you again I'm going to kill you?

Is it possible that we are now using words and terms that have no meaning unless we can hear the tone of voice and see the body language?

As someone who loves reading and aims to publish several novels I find that a scary thought.

In my favourite Steve Martin film: Roxanne - at one point he challenges a man who insults him with: "Is that the best you can do?" He then goes on to give twenty inspired suggestions.

Is it just laziness that causes me to reduce the extent of my vocabulary to a few words that I don't want anyone to hear me muttering during high stress situations?

I've decided to give up swearing for lent. I considered giving up alcohol but I've already started cutting back. I honestly think that cutting out chocolate could kill me.

But - what do I replace those words with? Even more important, what do I do about the situations and emotion that gave rise to those words? I've also decided to replace my cursing with blessing. I can still mutter away to myself causing my colleagues to worry about my sanity but I'm fairly sure that choosing to seek God's blessing on situations rather than cursing them will have a positive impact on mel; and my experience tells me it is likely to improve the situation around me as well.

It was the first day of lent yesterday. I only half managed to strangle the F word last night when I fell off a horizontal overhang and turned upside down... Lord forgive me! (and may Glasgow Climbing Centre prosper!)


  1. Good post Mark, and may your efforts be fruitful. I'm always a bit pleased with myself when I stub my toe or something and manage top remain silent!