Swearing and Our National Identitiy

I was at a client’s this afternoon and we started discussing some of the ‘sayings’ of the business owner. He loves to make his office manager work out what the old-fashioned Australian sayings mean. He was asking if I understood the one about “sliced bread” i.e. better than sliced bread. But I could not even remember it correctly*. We went on to discuss a debate I had with my family last night.


I had asked Adam about his next English language SAC for year 12. It is about our Australian identity that can be seen through our Australian way of speaking. I asked Adam what he could write on that topic. He said one thing was, that we were seen as a more friendly and casual society because of our use of the word “mate”.


I asked him if he had heard the news report within the recent year, which stated that we were no longer seen as a friendly country. He said that was because of our attitude to asylum seekers and the survey had nothing to do with his essay which was all about language.


I asked, “Well what else can you write about?” He said he could state that we are a country that has one of the highest levels of swearing!


I tried to debate that with him, Alana and her fiancé. My argument was that the majority of Australians who are over 20, spend a major part of their time at work; therefore those who served the public had to curb their language, because anything else would be unacceptable. Also retired people swear much less because of their generation. Therefore Australia should not be seen so badly.


They basically said “Mum, you live in a bubble”! The teachers’ swear in general i.e. “where the hell is this” at students as well as each other, except in Christian schools and female and co-ed Private schools. They also teach the students that swearing is acceptable and identifies our nation. This is a national curriculum’s stance on our Australian identity.
I asked my client and his office manager, who run an industrial service centre, what it was like there. The boss said he swears a bit, for instance if he hits his thumb with something, but he did not think he swore much. His office manager laughed at that comment. He went on to explain that most of the other employees, including him, do swear occasionally. He then explained that at the previous large business in which he worked in Australia, swearing was absolutely forbidden. It was the corporation’s policy which was strictly adhered to.


I asked the owner if he swore at home. He surprised me by saying “No! Never there”. He went on to remind me he is just over 55. Adam had said the night before that the line in relation to language is drawn at 40.


I asked the two of them if they thought that whatever the owner set as an example would determine how everyone would behave at their work. They both agreed with my idea.


I came home and told Adam what I had learnt and told him what I had realised. “Imagine what Australia will be like in the future when those who are 40 and below, are in charge of the workplace.”


It is a frightening concept the idea that “F.. this and F… that” will just be so prevalent. I had already heard it, I told them all this morning in the supermarket. A mum with a toddler in her trolley near me in an isle picked up a box and just said “F..” about something she read. I just could not believe that she would want to set that sort of example for her child.
I sincerely hope our country wakes up and sees where our Nation is heading. I know we can change if we want to. My daughter was explaining last night that when she worked at Subway, the others used to swear until she asked them not to. She admitted that she thought they went back to their normal behaviour when she wasn’t there.

* My son Adam who is studying English language knew it and its origin when I asked him about “the best thing since sliced bread”. It started when bread slicers came into use at bakeries.