The Next Generation Of Swear Words

Fuck. Goddamn. Shit.
Of course not. The day used to be that when you said “shit” in public, it was like exploding a terrorist bomb in public; people would fall silent, staring at you with half-angry open mouths. Mothers would clap their hands over their childrens’ ears and push them away from you, desperately trying to keep their little darlings from such language. Women would faint. Chivalrous guys might take a swing at you.
But today?
Shit, we’ve fallen.
This occurred to me when I was watching Comedy Central and they were airing Denis Leary’s asshole uncensored. No, this was nothing like the time they shoved a minicam up Katie Couric’s ass for National Colon Week – he was singing. Well, not through his asshole (though I could understand how you’d get that impression), but Denis was singing his comedy classic song, “I’m An Asshole”, without a single bleep when it came to the chorus. The chorus is, incidentally:

I’m an asshole (He’s an asshole, what an asshole)
I’m an asshole (He’s an asshole, such an asshole)

It was then that I realized we had lost the impact of our profanities. Sure, there’s still a few old ladies clutching pearled handbags who will encounter minor cardiac fibrillations whenever someone says, “Dammit!” in front of them – but the truth is, for every one of them there’s a sweet old cottontop cheerily saying, “Shit! I’ve lost my colostomy bag!”
If cable doesn’t care anymore, then Network TV won’t care in five years, and from then it’s a short hop to Middle America, and then it won’t be any fun to swear anymore. Like the Chicago Bulls manager leerily eyeing an aging Michael Jordan and Scotty Pippen and wondering what the heck happens after that lineup leaves, it’s time to start training the rookies.
We need to get new profanities, and we need them now.
Having taken a brief but fucking awesome correspondence course in Effective Obscenity, I have discovered three tenets that all great swear words hew to:
They must be offensive. Sounds dumb, but you’d be surprised. Anything that anyone is already saying isn’t good enough. Second-stringers like “fart” and “scrotal sac” don’t cut it.
They must be actual things. Science fiction writers love putting dorky words in the mouths of protagonists – things like “Flarn!” or “Tanj!” or “Skiddlyboo!” – in a futile attempt to give clean-cut stories some foul mouthed action.
It never works.
Because all the truly great swear words have been nouns – not necessarily a person or place, but always a thing. And generally a slimy and disgusting thing at that. After all, the classic Seven Words have all been things that revulsed people. How about a good solid Fuck?* Or a finger up your Asshole? Shit, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker…. all of these things are considered disgusting by a large section of the populace at large – and the revulsion lends strength to the word. We need to find the world’s new indecencies, the sore spots that people are afraid to look at, and turn them into weapons.
(Incidentally, I personally like cunts a whole lot… but I bet whoever found that part of the anatomy loathesome was one hell of a cocksucker.)
And most importantly, it must sound good in the mouths of the Irish. The Irish are the Kings of cursing, and we must give them their due. You can make up any profanity you feel like – but it isn’t a curse until it’s been twisted around a pair of Irish lips, sneered out over a green countryside at some right ghastly sod. “Ye fackin’ arsehole,” they’ll say, and you feel well and good when they say it. Other nations may swear, but only the Irish really mean it.
As such, if any our candidates would sound Gaelically awkward, then we must – must! – throw it out. To do less would be criminally negligent.
As such, I am currently holding a contest, running for the next three months: Vote for your favorite new swear, choosing one from the candidates below. Email me and tell me which of these you think is the best new profanity – or better yet, submit your own!
In case someone submits something better than these – and I hope you will – I will collect all email addresses and do a new survey at the end of June. But take a look at the ones below for guidelines and feedback.
So what are are the candidates, Alex? Glad you asked. Listed in reverse order, ranked on a one to ten scale:

Offensiveness: 2.
Syllables: 1.
Irish Quotient: 4

One of my first attempts and yet still a total failure, the Klan is just too much of a joke nowadays to be effective. Which is a real shame, since phonically they have everything you’re looking for in a soul-satisfying exclamation: One syllable, a nice plosive “K” at the front, and you can shout it real loud and sound like Kirk in Star Trek II. (“Klaaaaaaaaaaaan!“)
Sadly, the KKK has lost their association with midnight hangings, black terrorism, and racism, and gained an image as a bunch of startled-looking doofs on the Jerry Springer Show. Shouting “Klan!” would just make people wonder what the heck you were talking about – and worst of all, the Irish could never get it right. “Klen!” “What? Who’s clean, Seamus?”

Offensiveness: 4.
Syllables: 4
Irish Quotient: 1.

Almost the reverse of “Klan”, this is a perfect concept for a profanity and a piss-poor word. It’s distinct enough that everyone around you would instantly hear it, the image of ol’ grampaw fingering Ellie May out behind the shed still causes mindless fury in America – even Death Row prisoners hate molesters, for God’s sake – and women would definitely shield their children’s ears.
But it’s a mushy word. Saying it is like chewing a mouthful of wet mashed potatoes; when you get to the end, there’s no satisfaction to be had. Without a hard consonant or two, “molestation” is doomed. Besides, there are only two other heavy-hitting vulgarities with four syllables, and “motherfucker” and “cocksucker” are laden with nice fat “K” sounds to catch your tongue on – and unless we go the Popeye route and change it to “Moleskation”, we’re doomed.
The final blow comes from the Irish: Lord knows I’ve tried to hear an Irishman saying “molestation”, but it’s just not audible. They’d have to pronounce it with an American accent – and at that point we’ve lost the war.
Incidentally, “Jon-Benet” sounds terrific, but I doubt whether people would get it. Let’s just move on.

Offensiveness: 7.
Syllables: 2.
Irish Quotient: 4.

A definite attention-getter, this one has the real advantage that people might actually think you’re calling for help. Especially if you’re a woman, you can expect to see helpful bystanders break out running to help you… and then turn into white-hot anger when they realize you’re just bitching about losing the good parking space.
The word is also just a pleasant-sounding word. While it doesn’t have the popping tongueish impact of a clean “fuck!”, it shares a sibilant “S” with that other crowd-pleaser, “Jesus.” I can hear people muttering it under their breath now: “Jesus – what a goddamn rapist!
But once again, the Irish kills this one. They’d be calling someone a “reppist”, which sounds like a condiment you put on beefsteak. And so it’s a middle-of-the-road candidate.

Offensiveness: 8.
Syllables: 3
Irish Quotient: 7.

A definite Nagasaki of a word if used in the wrong place, the death of six million Jews is just not something people can fuck around with. So, naturally, it’s something we want to use.
The word itself is a great swear, if a bit-syllable-heavy: “Holocaust!“. The “holo” part is a little wussy, as if you were asking a waitress for a plate of challah bread… but the “caust” comes out like a shotgun blast. Which actually takes care of the three-syllable problem. All of the classics are one explosive sound, and eventually people will truncate it, trimming the first two parts down to a happy “‘Caust!”
Not to mention that the word itself is unmistakable. Drop it in your local bank, and Jews will take swings at you. And it lends itself to other Perry-White-style exclamations: “Great Flaming Jews, Kent! You mean Luthor’s robbed the bank?”
As for the Irish, they’ll sneer it with pride. “HawlecUST!” they’ll say, spitting it at you like a gob of phelgm. Yes, I’d say that “Holocaust” is a winner, except there’s one other contender we haven’t looked at… but do we want to?

Offensiveness: 10.
Syllables: 3 (or 2)
Irish Quotient: 10.

People will fight for the right to have them or keep them, but nobody wants a slickly mangled fetus sitting in their living room. Who wants to look at the baby before it’s out of the box? No one, that’s who.
It’s unmistakable as a word. And of all of the decent words we’ve looked at, it’s the shortest: I mean, sure, technically it’s three syllables… but when you’re angry, would you waste time pronouncing that preliminary “A”? You’ll just strike out: ” ‘Bortion!”
It sounds good. Go ahead. Shout it out and feel proud. Don’t worry about your neighbors, they’ll understand the good work you’re trying to do.
Satisfying, huh? Now that’s a curse.
It has the advantage of offending both pro-lifers and pro-choice mongoloids – they’re both so relentlessly paranoid that they automatically assume anyone who brings it up is has to be on the opposite side. Shout it out in a crowded room and everyone will turn their heads to see who said it, then quickly loathe you when they realize you’re cursing it… which is what you want, isn’t it?
It also leads on to great other words for swearing fits: “You ‘bortion-sucking fetus-ridden motherfucking brainscoop! Ya D&C-giving baaaaaastard!
As for the Irish? There is no better word. It’s plastic enough that they can toy with it, stretch it like silly putty laced with scorn. “Ye fackin’ BAW-shun,” they’ll say, and grin like a mudshark when they do.
So until the official vote comes in, for now I suggest saying “Abortion!” whenever you drop something on your toe or when someone cuts you off in traffic. It might seem unrelated and somewhat silly to shout out a surgical procedure at first… but think about it. You’re a pioneer, my friend. Do you think the first person to yell “Shit!” wasn’t worried about bringing up feces for no apparent reason?
The lesson: Swearing has nothing to do with real life. It’s unrelated. Just ‘borting do it.