Ciara Kenny

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Missing the cursing

The Aussies are no match for the Irish when it comes to the poetic use of profanities

Thu, Jul 17, 2014, 12:13


Denise Mooney

When I left Ireland for Australia, I knew there were many things I would miss about home, some of which were likely to catch me off guard. And of course I was right. I missed everything from the predictable to the bizarre, from the pubs to curry chips.

What surprised me though, was the thing I ended up missing most, apart from friends and family was… the swearing.

I don’t mean the casual and occasional use of the f-bomb, but the let-it-rip-with-a-profusion-of-colourful-curses type swearing at which the Irish are so adept. The kind of  swearing that involves stringing regular swear words together with your lesser-known curses in a poetic rant.

I’m not taking anything away from the Aussies. They can swear with the best of them. Farkin’ oath mate, can they ever. Many could give Dublin taxi drivers a run for their money.

But none can match the way an Irish person expresses him or herself through cursing. They’re just not fluent in swearing in the same way we are. At home there are people who swear with such total abandon you might say it was a gift. I seem to be related to many of them.

A swear word uttered in an Australian accent can sound a little harsh on the eardrums. Irish accents, on the other hand, have a natural rhythm which seems made for eliciting curses.

Generally speaking, Australians are unerringly polite, or at least my friends are, and if I started swearing as prolifically as I sometimes feel like, they would think me overemotional, angry or quite mad.

It’s only when you leave Ireland and experience other cultures, even those that on the surface appear similar to our own, you realise that as a nation, we are spectacularly emotional. We can make a drama out of a trip to the supermarket. We get as upset about football scores as we do when someone inadvertently leaves the immersion on. And I miss it so much.

I cannot understand people who get offended by swearing or believe that it’s evidence of a lack of moral fibre or a deficient vocabulary. As Stephen Fry says: “The sort of twee person who thinks swearing is in any way a sign of a lack of education or a lack of verbal interest is just a f**king lunatic.”

Of course, not all Irish people are so adept at swearing. I don’t have the gift myself. And of course, there are times when swearing is inappropriate, like at work or in front of children. But the rest of the time, thankfully, we’re happy to let rip with the profanities. And I love it. It’s emotional, it’s real, and most of time, it makes me laugh.

It has occurred to me that this longing to hear some decent swearing could simply be an extreme form of homesickness. Luckily, I’ll be touching down in Dublin town next month for a much-needed holiday with my family.

I can’t f**cking wait.

Denise Mooney is a freelance journalist and writer. She emigrated to Australia 10 years ago and now lives in Melbourne with her husband and son. Follow Denise on Twitter @denisemooney_