When I was growing up, my parents forbade me from playing with the kids down the street because they were uncouth and would swear “your mother this or your father that” at the drop of a hat.
Profanity was associated with poor breeding and illiteracy. Swearing was believed to be common among low class people who wasted all their days imbibing traditional brews.
Hardly a generation later, Botswana middle class suburban parents just have to grin and bear it as they watch their children waddling like tipsy penguins with their pants dropped below the waist down where daylight should not shine and punctuating every sentence with “[email protected]#king”
Curse or swear words were reserved for private conversations or stubbed toes but over the past few years they have solidly made their way into popular culture ÔÇô into hot songs, television shows, book titles and even company taglines.
Batswana children came of age in a time when YouTube videos wracked with swear words and movies with cursing characters are all around. It has become almost impossible even for prude for parents to insulate their children from the culture of swearing.
Dr Sethunya Mosime, senior Sociology lecturer at the University Of Botswana says there’s numbness nowadays when it comes to the usage of curse words. “Traditionally, when you cursed at someone’s parents or wife it became a problem since it was seen as terrible and uncouth but today things have totally changed. These days we see kids dancing and gyrating to Beyonce songs which clearly show how things have changed. There’s a less humble reaction than in the 80s and 90s because back then in the US and UK there used to be censorship counsels that would ban or restrict vulgar songs or movies.” She says the word nigga doesn’t have much shock value as it used to have, but the word kaffir is still somewhat sensitive.
These days everyone curses or uses profane language from a group of teenagers to a 10 year old. Cursing has become so widespread and mainstream that people don’t cringe or shriek anymore when they hear a swear word. There is a belief that profanity causes harm to kids and somehow stunts their vocabulary or makes them more aggressive, which would make one think seriously about censoring themselves around kids, parents might do it spontaneously because when they were young elders censored themselves around them. Growing up, curse words were only said in certain circumstances.
Often times when a curse word is said, there is a better word to be used in its place and does not add to the quality of the sentence, unfortunately, these days a swear word is as common as the air we breathe. Back then, people knew better than to express them, men occasionally swore, especially when out at bars but for women cursing was deemed socially unacceptable.
Today’s generation of youth see nothing wrong in speaking to their superiors or adults with profanity mainly because it is difficult to separate they way they constantly talk with their friends and now that teachers/lecturers swear in the classroom even as early as high school it gives students a level of comfortability to say these words as freely as they want.
The influence of media has also propelled the use of curse words. The influence of TV shows, movies, music and society has become accustomed to using curse words on a day-to-day basis. These forms of media have helped promote constant use of curse words. Music and movies filled with vulgar vocabulary influence teenagers; they look up to their favourite rap stars and movie stars so if they curse then it must be normal. People have become desensitized to the actual meaning of the words and now throw it into their vocabulary to sound cool.
Kutlo Kemoeng, a teller at Choppies Southring Mall says cursing differs within families. “In my family, one would get a good hiding if they used an inappropriate word. These days things are definitely a lot different because kids as young as thirteen can curse at their elders without being shameful, it gets annoying when you hear someone swear and feel like it really wasn’t necessary for them to swear.’ She says, it used to be surprising to hear the foul words but as time goes on it becomes more normal.