Excursions Of A Bibliophile

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An Apology For Expletives?

Posted by Vish Mangalapalli on October 30, 2009

As I watched “Snatch” and “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” – the two very entertaining and clever gangster movies made by Guy Ritchie, a curious thought came to my mind: Would these wonderful movies have retained their inexplicable charm if all the expletives were expunged from their scripts? The best way to put this to test is to take a few dialogues from the script and administer a language lobotomy. That is what I have done here. Consider three samples of this excision:

Original: Eighty-six carats.
              – Where?
                London
                London?    
 Yes, London. You know, fish, chips, cup of tea……bad food, worse  weather, Mary-fucking-Poppins. London!

Altered:  Eighty-six carats.
              – Where?
                London
               London?  
 Yes, London. You know, fish, chips, cup of tea……bad food, worse  weather, Mary-Poppins. London!

Original: You’re on thin-fucking-ice, my pedigree chums.
              And I shall be under it when it breaks.
              Now, fuck off.

Altered: You’re on thin-ice, my pedigree chums.
              And I shall be under it when it breaks.
              Now, **** off

Original: I am not in here to make a fucking bet.
              Appreciated……but all bets……are……off. If all bets are off, then there can’t be any money, can there?
              I ain’t fucking buying that.
              That’s handy because I ain’t fucking selling it. It’s a fact

Altered: I am not in here to make a bet.
              Appreciated… …but all bets……are….off . If all bets are off, then there can’t be any money, can there?
              I ain’t  buying that.
              That’s handy because I ain’t selling it. It’s a fact

So what do we see as the impact if any?

There is an untold emasculation in the verve, punch and emotion when the expletives are expunged. Therefore, what the polished gentry among us consider as negative actually does contribute something very concrete in aesthetic terms and imparts an intensity to expression of emotions and a sense of completeness to a given conversation. Could the same been achieved in any other way? Maybe.  But I am not sure if the same impact could have been recreated with the ease and comfort that a set of expletives have allowed this scriptwriter to. Had the scriptwriter decided not to employ expletives both the movies would have lost the charm irretrievably

Assuming that a case has been made for expletives, the more germane question would be where do I stand in relation to employing them myself or see my children employing them? An honest answer to this question will be the litmus test to my personal position. Let me start with my children, I definitely would not be happy to see them indulge in modern day billingsgate parlance. Having said that, I am comfortably reconciled to the fact that they will encounter all sort of expletives as they grow and will make decisions on the extent to which they are going to either embrace and employ or reject and restrain in the usage. That is the inevitable part of their growing up. All I can do is tell them what is appropriate and what is not. I do not want to extend my power of censorship beyond that

That now brings my own views and position into focus and here they are: I do not want to act prudish and run for a hot iron rod to cauterize my tongue whenever an expletive slips from my mouth and sometimes they inevitably slip especially among friends  when either an argument is in progress or there is a conscious indulgence in a friendly banter. I would definitely dissuade all in using them in a workplace context unless one is with a group of colleagues who are less of colleagues and more of friends (it is a difficult transition at workplace, but sometimes it does happen). More importantly I would refrain using them when the context does not necessitate or demand them. That in some sense would be my guiding principle

Folks may not appreciate my views and to those sanctimonious gentry who want to keep their tongues squeaky clean all I can say politely is “F… Off” …  without an apology

(Afterword:  I have written this piece for fun and as an exercise in imagination. When you meet me in person you will find me thoroughly soft spoken with no usage of expletives at all)

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3 Responses to “An Apology For Expletives?”

  1. Gautham Vemuganti said

    Nice one, Vishy. I really liked the closing.

  2. Harsha said

    Very nice, Vish. And yes, the “Afterword” is amazing! 🙂

  3. Pavan said

    regarding your afterword, ‘yeah right’..

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