Crikey, zounds and gnasher!

“Blistering Barnacles!” said Captain Haddock.

I seem to have forgotten how to swear.

I used to work in a newsroom, where four-letter words are what you use when your log-in won’t work, when the kettle’s broken, when an interview falls down, or when there’s a silence of more than two minutes.

We once had a 15-year old with us for a week’s work experience, who was obviously shocked by the language she witnessed on a particularly fraught day. I felt momentarily guilty as I was in charge, but then reasoned that work experience meant just that.

She experienced the workplace as it was, not some watered down version of it.
And she probably heard far worse at school anyway.

Fast forward a few years and we notice our almost-two year old son saying something that sounds a little like something he shouldn’t.

“What did you say?” we ask, not allowing our horror to show.

“Fock-in-hell!” he pronounces again, loudly and clearly.

We look at each other. We did hear right.


We have to do something, and that something is to stop swearing in front of him. And to stop doing it in front of him, we have to stop it entirely, otherwise words slip out without clearance from our brains.

Even more years later, with two primary school children and without the daily dose of a blue newsroom, I can only just about manage a “bloody”.
And that seems to have stopped being considered a swearword. It was in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, twice.

On its first outing, in the mouth of Ron Weasley, Hannah looked at me with her hand over her mouth, but the second time it passed her by.
Ben didn’t even react the first time.

And me? I take my cue from Captain Haddock.
I’ve appropriated Ben’s made up exclamation “Gnasher!” and I supplement it with lame excuses for swearing like –


I even feel slightly guilty when I say fart, but that’s been on Newsround in a story about cows and their effect on the ozone layer.

If John Craven were dead, he’d be turning in his grave.

But as he’s alive and well, I hope we’ll soon see him on a “Damn TV is Dumbing Down” type programme, produced by the Mary Whitehouse Appreciation Society, muttering “wind” and “fluff” and “bottom burp” to himself in disgust.

About Beta Mum

Here you can find the ramblings of a trapeze artist turned journalist who ran away from the circus to join the BBC. Cathy "mine's a Kir Royale" Keir then spent thirteen years working in Jersey, Guernsey and Devon, before downgrading to what you see before you. She has contributed articles to The Guardian, The Stage and Television Today, Junior Magazine and both the BBC and Bad Mothers Club websites. She has two children who think women can’t be prime ministers. She blames herself.
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7 Responses to Crikey, zounds and gnasher!

  1. Ivan says:

    Hillarious! You made me smile after a long day at work. Thank you!

  2. Ah, you much more creative than me. I swear to Olympic class standard – though I have to bite my tongue on occasion in front of the wee girlies at the stables (some of whom atually say things I don’t and then I slate them for it…)

  3. Mya says:

    Yes, being something of a Premier League curser myself, I know how difficult it can be to tone it down when smalls are around. But I do. You have to, don’t you? I can’t imagine having to cope with the fallout of Sprog telling his Granny to ‘f*** off.’ Gives me a migraine just thinking about it!

    Mya x

  4. beta mom says:

    We still giggle at the time when my son (now 9) was three. My mother, expressing her displeasure at another driver as we went along in our car, let fly with a “you Dumb [email protected]#!” Our son whipped his head around fast as could be as said, “Where?! Where?! Where’s the dump truck”. Sorry, son, you just missed it.

  5. Mean Mom says:

    I am allowed to swear, occasionally, now, as my sons are aged 24, 22 and 18. Whenever I indulge myself, however, I always get the same response. They collapse with laughter, and ‘mock’ me, saying things like “Aaah! Mom said ‘f***’”, or “Aaah! Mom said ‘s***’.”

    My parents never swore in front of me, when I was young. I have to confess that if they do it, now, I find it incredibly offensive, and have to force myself not to cringe!!!

  6. Omega Mum says:

    With the first one, I minded desperately. With the second, the first was already at primary school and heard it all there and told him. I collected the third from tea with friends recently and found all the older children riveted and giggling as she launched into a stream of four-letter words, all spoken in her sweet, innocent little voice. Now, I just concentrate on making sure they get the hang of time and place. And I’m a teacher.

  7. Beta Mum says:

    Ivan – welcome and glad to be of service!

    M&M – I bet those girlies hear worse at school.

    Mya – at least when they get to 4 or 5 they’re a bit more sussed about when they can say what.

    Beta – so funny! I laughed out loud. Poor little innocent chap.

    MM – my parents have never said worse than bloody, and even that rarely. It would seem odd if they did.

    OM – parents of my daughter’s friends sometimes look at me as if my youngest is polluting the brains of children without older siblings.

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