| 11.2°C Dublin

Why I swear by the Irish mastery of the F-word

I hope to be remembered for many things when I die, but I'm already assured of an immortal place in the thoughts of a group of Oregan students thanks to my efforts in teaching them the word "bo****ks".

No, I'm not proud of it, and I didn't plan it that way. But when I enrolled in a drama class during an Erasmus year in Germany, my unladylike expressions of frustration were seized upon with delight by the contingent from Portland.

For weeks, I'd hear them arriving into class with a delighted burst of "bo****ks!", having been utterly entranced by the musicality of the word.

Americans, you see, don't swear like the Irish, partly because they're conditioned to avoid it, but also because their swearing lexicon is miniscule compared with our vast array of colourful swear words.

Presumably that's why actress Christina Applegate made headlines when she admitted the swear words just slip out if she strays from script during filming.

Over here, we wouldn't blink an eyelid if an Irish actress confessed to a few swear words. Sure we count The Commitments and The Snapper as some of our greatest cinematic masterpieces. Like it or loathe it, our language is one of the things that causes us to live up to the name of the dirty Irish. Some of our swear words have even seeped into popular culture.


Just look at Brian Cowen in the Dail. I'm pretty sure he hasn't heard Barack Obama telling his deputy to "sort out those f****rs". And if Paul Gogarty were to take his "f**k you" theatrics to the Capitol Building, he'd be expelled within seconds.

It's not the most attractive aspect of our identity, and some of us should be fitted with our own bleep machines, but unfortunately that's just the way we are.

I was recently in the company of an Irish TV presenter who left me slack-jawed in disbelief as I listened to her effing and blinding. Having watched her on TV I'd subconsciously assumed she was a step above the rest of us gutter merchants. But after she'd mentioned "gobshites" and "s**theads" I realised I was standing face to face with the uncut version. We're a land of poets and scholars, which might explain our fondness for employing lyrical-sounding swear words and capitalising on the versatility of the word "f**k" as a noun, verb, adverb and adjective.

Oh, and our reputation as a laidback race surely stems from our ability to vent our frustration so effectively. Forget those stress balls, a solid, vehement rendition of "bo****ks" is the best and cheapest remedy.

Classy it ain't, but "f***" it, we can't "f*****g" help it.