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Soup of This Day #274: By The Moon And The Stars In The Sky*

December 12, 2012

Riga, Latvia
Riga, the capital city of Latvia, where the good folk speak Latvian as their primary language, as opposed to English. They’re not alone in that latter respect – English is not the official language in 152 countries, some of whom have some quite polite tennis players – Photo: Latj, 2004. Latj is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

I’m not against swearing.

To clarify: By ‘swearing’ I mean cussing, as in profanity. Uttering words like @#$% or @#$%. Sometimes it’s just so @#$%ing right for that context in that moment.

See what I did there?

A good example of appropriate use can be found in the Lethal Weapon series of films. Danny Glover’s Roger Murtaugh frequently announces that he’s too old for this @#$%.

And by Lethal Weapon 4 he really is too old. So is the franchise and consequentially that sequel too far really is @#$%. So that’s some appropriate cussing there – It, err, fits the context like a glove.


I am however against the gratuitous use of swearing. That kind of thing is just @#$%ing wrong.

See what I did there?

A good example of an inappropriate forum for swearing is the world of tennis.

Tennis is a refined sport. At Wimbledon, the most prestigious of all tennis tournaments, the players are still required to wear whites and they bow or curtsy to the Royal box before, after and sometimes during play – The curtsy while crushing an overhead smash is a particular art.

Meanwhile the spectators eat strawberries and cream, sip champagne and, during the many rain breaks, get entertained by the unbearable lightness of Sir Cliff Richard. The whole is as refined as a 100 year old bottle of single-malt, albeit with a saccharine aftertaste as if you’ve gone and added in some dry ginger ale for God only knows what reason.

There’s not a lot of scope for cussing in there – Although there is surely a temptation to tell Sir Cliff to @#$% off on that summer holiday he keeps banging on about.

Scot Andy Murray, the world’s No.2 ranked men’s tennis player, has found some reasons to fire off some audible shots though that are seemingly unrelated to that ageless and slightly weird crooner. To be fair they are mostly kamikaze drop-shots aimed at Andy Murray’s own feet, which may or may not be located in Andy Murray’s own mouth at the time.

Andy gets frustrated.

Which is understandable – You’re whacking a small fury green ball around, usually with someone who is trying ever so hard not to hit it back to within your reach. That’s got to get a little annoying – I mean you clearly hit the ball such that they could hit it – What kind of person doesn’t return the favour? I’m getting angry right now just thinking of the complete lack of consideration on offer.

The conventional way to deal with this building rage is to smash your racket – Presumably because this is a polite way of signalling that the other player is being a bit of a @#$%. This is a risky strategy – Because even if you manage to extract a contrite promise to not try to smash the fuzzy green ball hopelessly out of reach again, you’re unlikely to have a suitable racket left to hit the ball with from then on in.

Oh the irony.

To combat this, the current crop of star players will bring along a swag of rackets to each game – Maybe 3 or 4 for playing tennis with, and another 4 or 5 to smash up. This was more spectacular back in the days of wooden frames but petulantly destroying carbon fibre is an acceptable modern spin. Andy does occasionally do this.

And he likes to swear a bit too.

Or at least he used to. See, Andy has decided that the whole intensely screaming ‘@#$% YOU!’ at himself thing is: a. A little self-defeating on the ol’ confidence thing; b. Liable to get him fined; and c. Just not a good look…

‘Obviously, me saying @#$% or whatever is bad and wrong, and it’s something I want to try to stop doing.’

Oh good Andy. Inspired by this I want to try to stop making fun of tennis players. At least the foreign 1s anyway, because Andy says that they can be really ghastly in return:

‘But it isn’t as bad as some of the stuff the foreign players come out with. I wouldn’t want to name any names, but some of what they say is ghastly. It’s just that all of the umpires speak English.’

Ok. So I’m taking from this that swearing is wrong but it’s even worse when it’s done in a foreign language, i.e. Not English.

Especially because nobody but foreigners or Andy Murray understand those foreign languages. Certainly not any of the umpires or officials, all of whom speak only English. Those ghastly foreigners are having a maniacal laugh at the expense of all of us. We should re-activate Bletchley Park, access the genius of Alan Turing via a séance, and crack this dastardly code that the foreigners are using.

Or we could use Google Translate. Nu vai.

That last was the Latvian for ‘either or’. I hope. Either way it’s not that jāšanās hard to check if I’m right.

Google Translate does swear-words too.

Apparently it can also translate latenta ksenofobiju, which is Latvian for ‘latent xenophobia’. I thought I’d go with it in Latvian because it’s nicer and just a bit ironic when you write it in 1 of those foreign languages. Unless of course you are Latvian in which case writing it in 1 of those foreign languages like English, will have the same effect.

I’ve focused on Latvia here because a. They’re the 4th largest market for this blog; b. They would fit the Andy Murray definition of ‘foreign’, having their own language which is not English; and c. Latvian is an enormously fun language with which to say things like, tas ir tas, ko tas izklausās, kad baloži raudāt.

And maybe that is what it sounds like when doves cry.

There are some Latvian tennis players on the world stage too. Players like Anastasija Sevastova, who was ranked as high as 36th in women’s singles in 2011. And Ernests Gulbis, who has earned a career best ranking of 21st, also in 2011. Ernests, who is named for Ernest Hemingway, is not the kind of guy you’d catch swearing inappropriately.

Which is not the same as saying he doesn’t swear – In 2010 he beat Swiss maestro Roger Federer, capitalising on his 7th match point. Asked if nerves had lead to him messing up the previous 6 match points Gulbis said after the match:

‘I @#$% my pants a little bit there . . . excuse my language’

I’d have @#$% my pants a bit too so no need to apologise Ernests.

In 2009 Ernests was arrested and and spent the night in jail, apparently for soliciting prostitutes in Sweden. He was fined and released in time to play a tournament in Stockholm. He later said it was a misunderstanding. Which is distinctly possible because while Gulbis can speak all or some of 4 languages, none of them are Swedish.

Which is where I’ll wrap this up. In the pilot episode for the cult 80’s TV show Sledge Hammer!, the titular hero bursts into a motel room where a suspect is getting a massage from 3 busty masseuses. Brandishing his gun and eager to interrogate the bad guy Sledge tells the girls:

‘Ok ladies, wait in the john.’

A clearly nervous crook tries to calm things down by explaining that his companions aren’t up on the local language:

‘They aaah, they ah, don’t speak English.’

Without missing a beat Detective Hammer switches to:

‘Okej damer, vänta i toaletten.’

The girls promptly file into the bathroom and the bad guy, amazed, exclaims:

‘You spoke perfect Swedish.’

Which leads Sledge to explain:

‘Those are the only words I know.’

Maybe tennis referees need to take the same selective approach to foreign languages.

*The ‘In The Sky’ bit is redundant. If the Moon and the stars are, say, at your feet instead, then: a. You’re either upside down, which is easy to fix if you’re so inclined; or b. Something has gone cosmically wrong. If the latter you should feel free to say things like ‘Oh @#…’

By The Moon And The Stars In The Sky

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