I have seen television's future ...
I never watched this British political comedy/drama until Adrian McKinty's blog post yesterday about the bleeping; I've now watched all of Series 1 and a good chunk of Series 3 (in their uncensored versions). McKinty calls the show's invective "some of the best and most creative swearing that we've seen in the English language since Chaucer" and, while he unaccountably omits to mention Shakespeare, his head is in the right place.
The show, a purported look at the inner workings of the British government, is a symphony of swearing, with strings of ingeniously baroque invective from Malcolm Tucker, the brilliant and much-feared government communications director, punctuated by four-letter grace notes from him and the rest of the cast. The swearing is just part of the reason I'm more impressed by The Thick of It than by anything I've seen from Seinfeld, The Wire, The Sopranos or Curb Your Enthusiasm.
But I'm really here to ask for your favorite examples of published or broadcast fictional insult and invective. They need not involve sexual or bodily functions or even dirty words of any kind; one of my favorite invective set pieces in crime fiction is Salvo Montalbano's habit of cursing the saints at moments of tension in Andrea Camilleri's novels. That's up there with Thersites, the "deformed and scurrilous Greek" in Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, whose lines include:
"I would thou didst itch from head to foot and I had the scratching of thee; I would make thee the loathsomest scab in Greece."Those are my favorite examples; what are yours? And what distinguishes good swearing from tedious, offensive swearing in books, movies, and plays and on television?
© Peter Rozovsky 2012