It’s fair to say I swear a lot. I could blame our working-class upbringing, but my parents did more than enough to discourage our potty mouths.
When we were little, any foul language was met with audio/visual threats. For example, Dad would respond to rude words by lighting a match and yelling “I’ll burn your tongue!” This usually did the job; as did the slightly less menacing promise of a thorough oral cleansing, dramatically emphasised with a bar of Velvet soap held up to our faces.
As we grew the threats were occasionally replaced by actual punishment at the hands of my mother who’d use the nearest kitchen utensil to administer swift and lethal justice. In our house, the clanging sound of the cutlery drawer opening at speed was one of pending doom. This served as a deterrent that worked for the most part, but occasionally the odd snippet of filth would slip through our careless lips, earning Mum’s wrath.
My most memorable effort is still discussed at family gatherings – for both the degree of foul language used by a 9 year-old boy, and the resulting violence used against a 9 year-old boy.
I’m not sure what made me call my older brother Anton a “cocksucker” or how I even knew such a word existed. But I used that very phrase one Saturday morning in his bedroom. No doubt my dummy spit was one of frustration born by the continued oppression a younger sibling must endure, but I could have found a less offensive way to express it. And I also could have expressed it more than metre away from my mother who handed out her rapid-fire summary justice before I managed to utter the third syllable.
As was often the case Mum’s retribution was ironically accompanied by a tirade of swearing that put anything I said in the shade.
The assault over, I maintained as much dignity as I could muster and responded in the only way a little brother can when punished for using grown up vulgarity. The smug look on Anton’s 13-year-old face turned to horror as he realised what I was about to say: a sentence that is one of the strongest tools in the battered younger sibling’s meagre arsenal.
“Anton taught me how to say that!”
Boom! He copped it good the poor bastard. I never did recall him teaching me that.
The Sentence served me well over the years and would always ensure that he copped the same if not harder than I did whenever I used language unbecoming of a child. Like the time in the kitchen when I called him a poofter. By then I learned to yell out “Anton taught me how to say that” before I got hit, meaning he’d cop the wooden spoon and I’d escape without a finger being laid on me.