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How To Swear Proper

Or: authentic British usage of swearwords

This is really simple; just use “fuck”/“fucking” as punctuation as well as emphasis.

Disclaimer: my native dialect is West London, which to my ears has the most unpleasant of the London accents. However, I went to a public school, and most of the time I sound close to RP (Received Pronunciation, or “BBC English”), but with a slight nasal twang.

All of the London regions use a similarly restricted palette of swearwords, and English usage in general doesn’t vary by all that much across the country. My favourite example would have to be a transcript from the Trogg Tapes; see Reg Presley’s recent obituary and other articles in the Guardian for an example.

A few comments on some alternative words:

  • “bloody” is the general purpose mild adjective.
  • “bugger” is much more offensive than in American; it refers to the sex act, not insects.
  • “cunt” is rarely used (perhaps surprisingly), and is considered more offensive.
  • “shit” is a popular, mild swear word.
  • “motherfucker” is American, and never used.

For Scots examples I would suggest browsing Billy Connolly on YouTube, and for Irish try Shane McGowan; however, Northern Irish is recognisably different in sound from Southern Irish.

While we are discussing swearing, one American habit is more likely to cause British swearing than any other: talk about beer. We have beer, we have lager, and we have stout (or Guinness, almost synonymous) which are subsets of beer; “ale” is not a word we use, unless by a CAMRA (the real ale society) member. “Pale ale” is said as if it were all one word. Beer is served at cellar temperature, which is cool, not frozen – and we could have a very similar discussion about correct serving temperatures for wine. Most red wine should be served at the temperature of a pre-central heating room, not warm like soup.

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