I’ve always had a tense relationship with the F-word. My first encounter was aged six at school when I was made to sit next to Alan McChesney. We took an instant dislike to each other, mine driven by the constant green mucus that used to ooze out of his nose and tremble in jellied strands until he swiped his face with his jumper.
Anyway, he introduced me to the F-word by scratching it onto his big flat rubber in pencil, showing it to me and sneering, “You don’t know what it means.” Of course, I pretended I knew exactly what it meant, but was clueless. So, when I got home, I asked my mum to explain it to me and she hit the roof!
When she insisted I tell her who’d said it to me, I just couldn’t bring myself to dub Alan in – it’s amazing how young you learn that being a tell-tale is not a good look. Instead, I lied that our teacher had said it to us. She soared above the roof at this point and rang the school – I’ve now blanked the consequences from my mind.
After that, my use of the F-word veered erratically from overuse in a vain and unsuccessful attempt to be cool. Or, hearing how it sounded coming from my middle-class mouth, I sporadically stopped using it and sounded uptight as a result.
When the kids arrived, my F-word uptightness reached new levels as I didn’t want my babies to be sullied by it. This led to me one day having to sit in my car for 15 minutes waiting for some teenagers to finish their expletive-ridden argument in the market square before I could get out with the children! Worse, if anything on TV featured the F-word, we ended up using a bizarre form of reverse Tourettes whereby the whole family shouted ‘Walrus’ at top voice to drown out the word should anyone utter it on screen. Don’t ask – I literally have no idea.
With said children fast approaching 18th and 21st birthdays in the next month, you’d think that by now I’d be somewhat more comfortable with the F-word. In actual fact, I totally agree with Stephen Fry that swearing is an important part of communication and that, with the right timing, the F-word can be hilarious.
However, it seems I am now faced with a new F-word. One that fills me with …