Swearing in “Veep”
The swearing in “Veep” has so far not been as satisfying to me as it has been in Ianucci’s other work, and I think it’s because the writers aren’t entirely getting the important differences between Anglo swearing and American swearing. Anglo swearing is ornate, clever, and florid; American swearing is brutal, repetitious, and earthy. There’s a reason they sell t-shirts on St. Mark’s Place that read “FUCK YOU YOU FUCKIN FUCK.” Swearing in ”The Thick of It” showed control in the midst of a tantrum, like a well-placed kick in the middle of a marital arts routine. It demonstrated that the speaker was ready to just let forth a string of invective but was powerful enough to channel it into something laced with cultural references and word-games. In America, though, swearing tends to signal the threat of violence, the moment when coarse language gets even coarser. It’s a heightener. “He’s got his eight-track playing really fuckin’ loud” would, in the Anglo incarnation, be something like “His eight-track was so fucking loud that Helen Keller could hear it four fucking blocks away” or something. Anglo swearing is punctuation or noun, American swearing is a self-modifying adjective or adverb. If “The Thick of It” represents one sort of apogee of Anglo swearing, “Uncle Fucker” still stands as the ultimate example of American swearing, at least to me. They got it right when Julia Louis-Dreyfus yelled “I’m busy apologizing to that shit-tard!” Ah yes, that’s it: the mellifluous tones and soul-stirring majesty of good ol’ American profanity.