I can remember exactly where I was the first time I used the F word. I was 15 and in the common room at boarding school.

I don't think I was particularly cross or annoyed. It was more of an experiment - would I really be struck dead for uttering such a dreadful word? Although the nuns didn't specifically say death would result from using vile language, it was clearly implied.

So I dropped it and I lived to cuss another day and like most sins, when you've done it once, it's so much easier to do it again.

The F bomb used to be shocking - now it's ubiquitous. On the telly, in songs, at the bus stop - it's practically commonplace. So it's little wonder the story of the woman who was evicted from her flat for dropping the F bomb garnered so much attention this week.


Vrnda Torckler swore twice when her landlord left the gate to her house open and her dog ran on to the road. She says she wasn't aiming the word at anyone in particular - she was just upset and terrified that her dog would be hurt. A couple of days later, she received a series of text messages from her landlord, Vincent Calzone. He asked whether her use of strong language was her normal behaviour.

Vrnda said that she wouldn't normally use such harsh words; she was just very worried about her dog. Calzone replied that he was uncomfortable with her language and wanted her gone from the flat.

In an interview with the Herald, Calzone used profane language throughout - although, to be fair, he didn't use the F word - and he was utterly unrepentant. He said her language was indicative of a personality type and he didn't want that sort of person on the property.

His house, his rules, I suppose, and Torckler has said she will be moving out, as soon as she can find a property that will accept dogs.

The Tenants' Protection Association says she may have a case for "retaliatory action" in the Tenancy Tribunal - even if you don't like swearing, it seems a surprising reason to evict someone.

I do understand that there are people who find cuss words unattractive. My mum doesn't swear and has ruined the punchline of some perfectly good jokes by refusing to swear. I know she'd rather my vocabulary wasn't so earthy.

But I love language. I love finding exactly the right word for a specific situation. Discovering there is a word for the smell of rain on dry ground was a wonderful moment - petrichor, in case you're wondering. Uxorious. Evanescent. Curmudgeonly. Lambent.

Words are absolutely marvellous - and the F word is among my favourites. It's such a complete word and so satisfying. No wonder it's one of the first words toddlers pick up, to the horror of their parents - the "uck" sound is so easy to pronounce.

There's another reason I like to swear. And it harks back to the reason Calzone gave for wanting his tenant gone. When I left boarding school for the big wide world, I was woefully ill-equipped to deal with many situations I found myself in. I was a good girl. A nice girl. I might as well have had "sucker" tattooed on to my forehead. After a couple of bruising encounters, I decided I would rather be tough than nice.

Swearing became part of a carapace. A couple of weeks after I began dropping the F word into conversations, one of the announcers at the radio station took me aside. He was much older than me and wont to use profane language himself. He advised me men didn't like girls who used bad language and if I wanted a boyfriend, I should watch my tongue.

I didn't use the F word on him - although I was sorely tempted. I thanked him for his concern, inwardly delighted that my mission was on its way to being accomplished. I much preferred the men around me to be purse-lipped as opposed to predatory.

However, while I love the English language in all its richness, I would never knowingly inflict the F bomb on someone who hated it. I try now to follow the advice of the author James Rozoff - vulgarity is like a fine wine: it should be uncorked only on a special occasion, and then shared only with the right group of people.

Kerre McIvor is on NewstalkZB, weekdays, noon-4pm.
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