Swearving: How to Swear Politely

Posted on November 8, 2012

When life’s irritations or levels of pain get too much for us in an instant, we need some kind of release. As someone in a client-facing job and who often looks after young children, it simply doesn’t do to be effing and blinding willy nilly. I noticed the other day that I had incorporated “gosh” and “my goodness me!” into my vocabulary even at home.

In my classroom in Japan I once tripped on the lead of the CD player and brought it crashing down on my foot. “Fffff” I started, before trailing off. Unfortunately I didn’t get away with it because it was a relatively advanced class, and one student in particular was delighted that he had almost heard an English swear word in action, albeit a quarter of one. “Did you say a bad word?” he asked gleefully. “No!” I answered, three-quarters truthfully.

So sometimes it’s really too late to avoid saying anything at all, and one needs to “swearve” /swɛːv/. I invented this word today and I’m quite pleased with it. It’s for those times when you are driving down the high street of life and something inexcusably vexing jumps in your way. It’s OK as long as you don’t hit it.

When I was little, my mother would exclaim “fiddlesticks”, rather elegantly in hindsight, when her exasperation levels peaked. Similarly there is “fudge” and “flip”. Of course there is always “sugar”, and, immortalised by Jennifer Saunders, the rather pretty “sugar crumbs”. To avoid blaspheming just use “gosh”, “Gordon Bennett” or my personal favourite, “God Bless America!” I quite enjoy swearves from across the pond too such as “darn”, “dang” or “dagnabbit”. You would have to be very lucky to hear the latter because according to Urban Dictionary its usage is limited to only a few select groups, including “cantankerous old farmers”.

If you have any good swearves, share them on the Facebook page:


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