In British English, how bad of a swear word is ‘arse’?

Look – FUCK. And the world still turns. There is swearing, though, and swearing. As every writer knows, a profanity written has a kick many times that of one merely said. The same is true of one said in an accent that ought to know better. If, say, Bob Geldof told you hed got a fucking puncture, youd only be thinking about his tyres. If the Duke of Edinburgh did, hed sound so cross that youd wonder if hed had the driver shot. Frankly, its a bugger in this day and age, but such is the burden of breeding. If you talk proper, youve got to swear proper too.

First, and most importantly, swear only in description. Never in exclamation or in insult. The house is shagged, the dog has shit for brains, this phone contract is a shitting wreath of fucking arse-bunting – all fine. Even some phrases that sound pretty damn insulting – Clive is a wanker; Daisy is a whore; that dickhead Meredith walks like shes sat in a shite, etc – are actually just insulting descriptions, and they are perfectly acceptable in almost any company, provided they are uttered calmly. The big danger with swearing is not causing offence but being boorish. Never shout. For the most part, except in some particular circumstances, you should never swear at somebody. If you feel you must, then it should be done with all the brutal efficiency of conversational thermonuclear war. Imagine Dame Maggie Smith calling a footman a c ***, or Brian Sewell telling a traffic warden that hes a shabby little fucktard. This is the effect you are going for.

Its all about deliberation. The words are important, so you need to know precisely what they mean. When David Cameron said the word twat on the radio, he sounded foolish not because he had sworn, but because he clearly didnt realise it meant vagina. You need to be on top of this stuff. Arse isnt swearing any more. Your arse is just your arse. Shit remains a bit sweary, but has mainly become a perfectly routine term for either not good or actual faeces. If you want to keep it properly rude, add the Celtic e and make it shite. Shite remains a great word. Fucked means broken, or otherwise damaged. That is all. Even if something is broken as a result of actual sex (a bed, say), this is mere coincidence; there are no such connotations.

Beware, though, of losing that essential sense of lofty detachment. Your car may be fucked, your head may be fucked, even your job. But your marriage should never be fucked. If anything, it should be shagged. Be inventive, mainly by adding ing or ly where it isnt expected. Shitting, arseing, twatting – these are the marks of a thoughtful maestro. Where posh swearing really struggles is with affection. With a regional accent, you can swear at your friends, and fondly. In cut-glass tones thats hard to do. Even if you pull it off, it sounds a bit rugby club. Avoid.

Swearing with your friends, however, is vital. Done deftly, it can be the first sign of friendship, the first intimate crack in a chilly facade. A boss who swears at you is a tyrant, but if he swears with you, then it should feel like hes bought you a drink. Its all about whether you feel comfortable enough to swear back. Unexpected swearing from a beautiful woman is like a tiny glimpse of her underwear. If you werent supposed to see it, it can seem uncouth. But if you think you were…

Swear with your mother-in-law, but only if she does first. When that happens, youve bonded for life. The same sort of rule applies in job interviews, or with bishops. Theres nothing better than a sweary bishop. And if you must test the water, do it robustly. Always sound like you mean to swear. Never sound like you cant help it. Dont swear with a headmaster, but always swear with a head boy. Dont swear in shops, unless theyre very posh shops, in which case – go for your fucking life. I hope youre getting this down.

100 Kids Say Bad Words | 100 Kids | HiHo Kids

The swearing rules according to Hugo Rifkind

Swearing with your friends, however, is vital. Done deftly, it can be the first sign of friendship, the first intimate crack in a chilly facade. A boss who swears at you is a tyrant, but if he swears with you, then it should feel like hes bought you a drink. Its all about whether you feel comfortable enough to swear back. Unexpected swearing from a beautiful woman is like a tiny glimpse of her underwear. If you werent supposed to see it, it can seem uncouth. But if you think you were…

Its all about deliberation. The words are important, so you need to know precisely what they mean. When David Cameron said the word twat on the radio, he sounded foolish not because he had sworn, but because he clearly didnt realise it meant vagina. You need to be on top of this stuff. Arse isnt swearing any more. Your arse is just your arse. Shit remains a bit sweary, but has mainly become a perfectly routine term for either not good or actual faeces. If you want to keep it properly rude, add the Celtic e and make it shite. Shite remains a great word. Fucked means broken, or otherwise damaged. That is all. Even if something is broken as a result of actual sex (a bed, say), this is mere coincidence; there are no such connotations.

First, and most importantly, swear only in description. Never in exclamation or in insult. The house is shagged, the dog has shit for brains, this phone contract is a shitting wreath of fucking arse-bunting – all fine. Even some phrases that sound pretty damn insulting – Clive is a wanker; Daisy is a whore; that dickhead Meredith walks like shes sat in a shite, etc – are actually just insulting descriptions, and they are perfectly acceptable in almost any company, provided they are uttered calmly. The big danger with swearing is not causing offence but being boorish. Never shout. For the most part, except in some particular circumstances, you should never swear at somebody. If you feel you must, then it should be done with all the brutal efficiency of conversational thermonuclear war. Imagine Dame Maggie Smith calling a footman a c ***, or Brian Sewell telling a traffic warden that hes a shabby little fucktard. This is the effect you are going for.

Look – FUCK. And the world still turns. There is swearing, though, and swearing. As every writer knows, a profanity written has a kick many times that of one merely said. The same is true of one said in an accent that ought to know better. If, say, Bob Geldof told you hed got a fucking puncture, youd only be thinking about his tyres. If the Duke of Edinburgh did, hed sound so cross that youd wonder if hed had the driver shot. Frankly, its a bugger in this day and age, but such is the burden of breeding. If you talk proper, youve got to swear proper too.

Swear with your mother-in-law, but only if she does first. When that happens, youve bonded for life. The same sort of rule applies in job interviews, or with bishops. Theres nothing better than a sweary bishop. And if you must test the water, do it robustly. Always sound like you mean to swear. Never sound like you cant help it. Dont swear with a headmaster, but always swear with a head boy. Dont swear in shops, unless theyre very posh shops, in which case – go for your fucking life. I hope youre getting this down.

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