I was a latecomer to Succession on Sky Atlantic, but made up for lost time by binging on the first two series. Yes, it’s compulsive viewing, but am I the only one disconcerted by overuse of theF – word” in virtually every conversation?

The pervasive use of what would once have been called “bad language”, underlines how far we’ve come or regressed, since November 1965, when Kenneth Tynan dropped the F-bomb for the first time on live television. En passant, he might not have been the first. Irish writer and professional inebriate Brendan Behan claimed to have done so in 1956. Given Behan was rarely sober or coherent, it’s unlikely anyone would have noticed.

Tynan also laid claim to being the first to have had the unexpurgated word printed in the Guardian newspaper in 1960. However, a couple of days earlier, the unedited word had appeared in a report of proceedings in the Lady Chatterley obscenity trial. The then editor Alastair Hetherington agonised on whether to publish or not.

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Things have certainly moved on, or not, in 60 years. A couple of weeks ago, the paper published a piece by columnist Marina Hyde on ex-Daily Mail editor, Paul Dacre’s candidacy for the chairmanship of Ofcom. The piece was extremely funny and, depending on your point of view, either enriched or rendered indigestible by frequent use of the C-word. What would have been unthinkable a few years ago, was the editorial decision to publish the word in full, without recourse to the fig leaf of asterisks.

When drafting this piece, I deliberated on whether to write the words in full or use asterisks. If you’ve stayed with me this far, you’ll be complimenting my sensitivity or condemning my cowardice and blandness. In defence, I’ve never seen the point of asterisks; they’re a literary Trojan horse. Readers know what the words are and are patronised when a few letters are replaced by stars. On the other hand, I’m not one of life’s cursers and hopefully, my vocabulary is extensive enough to write without resorting to words that still make me uncomfortable. It’s probably an age thing.

The purpose of swearing is to make an impact. As late as 1914 Eliza Doolittle’s utterance on the London stage of, “not bloody likely”, caused a sensation. At one time, the most potent swear words derived their shock value through association with sexual organs or practices, particularly at a time when sex was considered a taboo.

That ship has long sailed and sex-related swearing has largely been absorbed into everyday discourse. It would only be in Peppa Pig World that you could walk down a street without encountering the linguistically-challenged demonstrating their command of four and seven letter nouns and adjectives.

My late uncle sometimes apologised for using “shipyard language” outside his workplace and hours. In those days swearing was largely a working-class male thing. Since then, it has become classless and genderless. Not long ago, I was in a pub in the vicinity of a group of smartly dressed young men and women whom I took to be office workers. Virtually every sentence in their conversation included the F–word. I wasn’t shocked or even offended; there was nothing I hadn’t heard before. It was simply tedious and I chose to move out of earshot.

Through such overuse, swearing has become worn out and lost much of its power to shock. Kenneth Tynan set out to test the barriers of acceptability in the name of artistic freedom. Fair enough, but there was an inevitable backwash into everyday life.

In my headteacher days I recall trying to explain to a youngster why words she heard regularly on television, in the street and possibly at home, should not be applied to her PE teacher. No doubt there’ll be some who think I’m a prude as, after all, they’re only words; sticks and stones and all that. The aforementioned PE teacher certainly didn’t see it that way, but it’s a line of argument worth exploring.

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Swearing tends to mirror what the majority find offensive at a particular time, for example Ms Doolittle’s “bloody”. More recently, a new set of words have arisen that appear to undermine the “sticks and stones” defence. These are associated, not with sexual function, but race and sexual orientation. They’re still “only words”, but try them out down your local pub or football ground and see where they land you.

Context and choice are all important. If offended by Succession, the remote control is the answer. Similarly, no one forces me to buy tickets for Frankie Boyle or Kevin Bridges or to read what Martina Hyde writes.

We might be considered prudes, but the daily verbal assault in the workplace or the pub, on the bus or train and which we can do nothing about, is an unacceptable intrusion into our space and rights. It will make a difference if we stand up to these verbal bullies. I swear it.

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