I saw a film last night. It was fucking awful. Are you shocked? No, not that the film was awful. Shocked that I said it was fucking awful?
That's the reason I walked out of it, you see. I'm a movie buff, and the film had been well reviewed, but it seems you can't watch an adult film these days without everybody saying fuck every few minutes.
I remember the first time I heard it in a film and, yes, it was "18"-rated ("X" in those days). It was used only once, which is why it had particular force, but the audience sat up in astonishment, and then laughed nervously because we all realised another boundary had just been crossed. Nowadays, an "18" film isn't a proper 18 unless it's peppered with fucks, and I pine for the days when you could watch a strong adult drama without half the dialogue being given over to one word. Was the strength of the dialogue years ago diminished because nobody said fuck? Of course it wasn't. I suppose it's a gift for the screenwriter. After all, you only have to write half as much dialogue. The rest can be filled in with fucks. "Where did I put my car keys?" simply becomes "Where the fuck did I put my fucking car keys?" Taken to its logical conclusion, in another 10 years Daddy Bear may well be asking who the fuck has been eating his fucking porridge.
When my eldest daughter was studying drama in the sixth form, I remember going to an evening show put on by the students. They'd taken a current news theme, and split into groups to dramatise situations around it. Part of it was scripted, the rest improvised. The fresh-faced youngster introducing the event said: "I'm afraid we're likely to be using the f-word tonight." There was a whisper of inevitable acceptance from the audience of parents. I wanted to shout out "Why?", and I still wanted to shout it out after the performance.
Fortunately, my school playground isn't yet a hotbed of profanity because the children know how strongly we feel about it. But things are changing.
The early morning playground suffers from it, possibly because the children don't think I'm in yet, or that sound doesn't travel up to my window. The playground supervisors at lunchtime are subjected to most of it, particularly if football's on, whereas the children do at least hesitate at morning playtime if a teacher is within earshot. But then, can you blame them? Many of their parents swear a lot, often at them. Just as they watch their football idols gob on the grass, so they gob on the playground floor in emulation. Switch on the telly after 9pm and the language in most dramas is likely to have a fuck or two somewhere along the line. It is accepted as part and parcel of being "adult drama".
There may be a 9pm watershed, but how many of our juniors are in bed by then? And most have TVs and videos in their rooms anyway. Even if they don't watch adult drama, I'm amazed at the videos they get hold of, or the number of parents who couldn't care what their children watch.
I'm certainly not advocating our children exist on a diet of Neighbours - God forbid - and Pete and Dud's Derek and Clive albums have me in stitches.
But sometimes when I settle into my cinema seat and a stream of invective hits the screen in the first two minutes, even one fuck seems a fuck too many.
Mike Kent is headteacher at Comber Grove primary, London borough of Southwark. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org