Thought for the Week, November 26 2021

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As a child, I would have been in dead trouble if I had ever used the name of Jesus as a swear word, but for many people these days, it seems to be commonplace.

A lot is said about what is acceptable and unacceptable language. Much of it associated with rivalries between football clubs, racial slurs or gender-based slanders, some of which, if used, can get you arrested.

The most offensive swear words used to be religious. They go against the command in the Bible: ‘Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.’

To do so was so serious that a whole lot of coded language was developed so that people could go on swearing and not get punished, technically known as ‘mincing’ your words.

It disguised the word you wanted to use just enough to keep clear of trouble.

In the Middle Ages, ordinary people would have commonly spoken of the Virgin Mary as ‘Our Lady’ – as Roman Catholics still do.

So the oath ‘By Our Lady’ was minced into the swear word ‘bloody’. That word has to be at least 500 years old.

Other examples include the words ‘cripes’ and ‘crikey’, which were disguised forms of ‘Christ’.

‘Blimey’ came from ‘God blind me’, which was a way of looking for God’s punishment if you were not telling the truth.

These days, swear words seem to be commonplace, and do not cause offence to many people – indeed, we hardly notice them.

But the words we use can still offend and hurt.

Jesus’ advice was simple: ‘I tell you, do not swear at all… simply let your Yes be Yes and your No be No.’ (Matthew 5 verses 33 and 37)

Why not give that a try?

Reverend Steve Fulcher, Church of Scotland, South Kintyre Team Ministry.