Published in the Times Of India on May 16, 2011.

Among the varied forms of entertainment that human interaction provides to interested onlookers, an important component is the spicy shock-value of swear words. The same sort of language could of course be sacrilegious for most of us.

One could be watching a film with the family, or dining at a restaurant with friends, or even working in one’s office (with the window open)- cuss words are liable to drift into our ears any time, unannounced and uninvited. Boys will be boys of course and they are more likely to use and hear f-words, the b-words, c-words and even z-words more often than humans of other categories. But it is clear that each one of us has to accept the entry of one or more of such intrusive words into our sphere of cognizance at times.

What really shocked me as a boy though was when I heard a venerable old relative, one whom I really admired, mouthing a typical Hindi swear word when upset with a few neighbourhood boys who had trespassed into his garden. I was an impressionable tween at the time, and it was quite a jolt for me to hear him use a word that only the naughtiest boys would, in school.

Most recently, a young man and his date went out for their first dinner together and started off by making polite conversation. A friend and I were at an adjacent table and we noticed that the couple appeared to be the innocent type. Their composure, and ours, was shattered rudely though, by a youngster seated across the hall who shouted aloud a really filthy world. He was evidently excited by some breaking news that a classmate had just delivered to him.

The effect that that particular expletive had upon the occupants of the hall was quite palpable. Most people blushed. Some even covered their faces. The above mentioned young man on his first date glared at the perpetrator of verbal violence who in turn glared back and told our cute boy to buzz off. It could have ended at this point but the foul mouthed boy decided to use an even worse adjective for the lover boy, to round off his response to the glare.

The character of men does change dramatically at times, but what followed in this case was total transformation. Disregarding the presence of his pretty girlfriend and of course ours as well, the young suitor reeled off a barrage of chaste Punjabi swear words in retaliation. Needless to say, utter mayhem broke out at the place and most people fled. The young girl was totally inconsolable and utterly annoyed with her chameleon like guy friend. The fact that my friend and I had to drop her home was just a side light.

That today’s youngsters tend to pick up cuss words at school or college is well documented. What is less known is the influence that modern day heroes have upon them. Our champion cricketers for example- some of them use expletives each time they get hit for boundaries. What is worse is that they repeat them when they pick up wickets! Young boys watching them obviously feel that it is the done thing to swear all the time, if national heroes can do it live on TV.

Our filmy heroes are even more skilled at the use of cuss words. These days the heroines have also joined them. The censor board tends to be lenient too nowadays and many a new film offers to the public the full repertoire of foul words that the Hindi language possesses.

Fortunately enough, dinner table conversation at most homes is still decent and does not involve such profanities. One can only hope that things stay that way, for eating one’s meal is not an enjoyable experience when graphically meaningful cuss words are found floating around in the air!