I sometimes watch Inside the Actor’s Studio. At the end of the interview, the host – a wonderfully fawning James Lipton – gives the guest this questionnaire. I always thought that my answers would depend on a number of factors and likely change with time/mood/etc. Except for the fifth one: “what is your favourite curse word?”. For a long time, my favourite swear word has been the lovely expression ‘fuck’. I love how explosive it is, it’s versatility is unmatched and the way you can change meaning with the slightest shift in inflection is… well, fun. There’s nothing about it I don’t like.
I blame my father. Well, actually I blame both my parents (hi, mor!), neither of whom met too many curse words they didn’t like. Growing up in Denmark didn’t help, either – swear words don’t have an awful lot of power there and are often blithely incorporated in everyday speech, so one could say I was primed for corruption by my nationality.
Before the whole family moved to Canada, my father spent a few years working here, coming home for visits every 3 months or so. And he brought ‘fuck’ with him. I instantly took to it – the whole family did, including my sister Janne who was between 7-9 at the time. A huge benefit was that hardly anyone knew what it meant, which not only freed us up to say it in almost all situations, but also lent us a certain cachet. As I was at the time a bit of a dork, every little bit helped. (p.s. I’d like to think I’ve since become a smidgen cooler, and if you disagree, please keep me in the dark)
Of course, coming to Canada put a bit of a crimp in our freedom of expression. Janne was entering Grade 4, so quickly learned to moderate herself at school, whereas I entered university – not exactly an environment known for decorum, although I did manage to censor myself around professors. At home, however – and I’m sure my mother is thoroughly enjoying reading this – things didn’t change. In fact, people at times told us of a mysterious blue cloud hanging over the house, which we figured was the fumes from a seemingly nice family of four regularly sounding like dockworkers.
As the years progressed and more of our friends had children, we somehow managed to filter out most of the more colourful language, at least around the wee ones. However, a while back, I found out from one of the kids (now a teenager), that my efforts to appear civilized have been less than spectacular. He was totally on to me and strangely enough, apparently had known about my – a-hem – tendency to drop the odd expletive in conversation. Damn. Er… I mean… um… well, you know what I mean.
However, over the past year or so, the words that come out of my mouth have gradually become less peppered with obscenities. Can’t really explain why - it’s not like I’ve made a concerted effort to clean things up. Perhaps I’m finally becoming an adult? Or maybe it’s the concerted effort I make to be bleedin’ (oops) positive since the Enbrel. Or maybe it's because I say things like 'shite' and 'arse' now - as we've already established, it doesn't count if it's in a different language. Dialect, too (yes, really). But ‘fuck’ is still my favourite and does occasionally make an appearance.
If you were on Inside the Actor’s Studio, how would you answer the fifth question?