Library material for kids

The rain is incessant and deafening, and himself is gone away for the weekend to compete in the Birkebeiner race - the largest mountain bike race in the world about which he has lately been obsessed! So what a great idea then to head to the library, return the overdue books I hadn't got around to reading after two months, and let the girls choose a couple of DVDs to watch tonight and tomorrow night. We got Finding Nemo and Tarzan. But look at what we could have procured from the children's DVD section. Yes, none other than the movie 'Fucking Åmål' which according to the strapline is 'Fucking Great!'. I can't tell you much more about it as to actually pick the item up might have lead to all sorts of questions and dilemmas. It was hard enough to get away with taking photos - 'why are you taking pictures, Mommy?' - you can picture the scene.

This isn't the first time I've come across inappropriate usage of the F-word in combination with a Scandinavian language. My teenage niece, who is Danish, has used it in her status update on Facebook. I'm guess it must be considered cool. But is it?


RennyBA's Terella said...

It's actually a good movie about a small village in Sweden, but not actually for kids. It's about how it is for the youth to live in the outback.

The title was of course to get publicity and it works :-)

Happy Weekend.

OSLO said...

Well thank you Renny for that. I still can't imagine an English-language movie with the word 'Fucking' in its title even for the purposes of the publicity. Do you think the connotation is slightly different when used by Scandinavians rather than by Americans/Brits/Irish? It seems you are using it in a more positive context than we would...or is it a generational thing. Gosh, maybe I'm just an old fogey!

Anonymous said...

Also, the film is about youngsters dealing with being different, in his case lesbian. A really good film. I've always found English speakers to be too sensitive when it comes to swear words, it's really not that dangerous. By the way, this film was released in an international version, with the title "Show me love".

Louise Dean said...

Swearing is about 'respect'. We all do it but we choose who we do it with. And kids have to earn the right to it. I do it, but they can't. Too bad. When you're 18 and buy your own food and clothes you can say what you like! It's just one last way we have of indicating the nature of our relationships - we say 'fuck' with friends, when we feel relaxed/humourous/angry - but on a par, equal. It's useful to have these indicators. But they're being so eroded....and its sad because its not us that need boundaries and discipline, its children that need rules to feel safe and truly cared about. The word has an implicit threat to it used in public places. You hear it on trains here shouted and you shudder. I use to love discretionary (or not so very discreet!) use of that word, but now its two-a-penny. Can't we grown ups have anything of our own - shall we make up some extra-rude words?
But yes agree with you Jo, it's pretty sad. And a bit pathetic. Great films, like great books, don't need to use the fuck word to get attention. 'Pride and Fucking Prejudice'. "The Fucking Great Gatsby' 'Our Mutual Fuck'?

Now back to titling my book. Fuck.

Anonymous said...

Cultural differences, I guess. To put this in a context, when used in Scandinavia "fuck" is most often used as a synonym for "faen" (swear word meaning "the Devil", commonly used in Sweden and Norway, where many swear words are based on the Devil) which is a much less threatening/controversial word than the so-called "F-word". Of course, swearing is very common in Norway, in particular Northern Norway. Did I mention this is a Swedish film?

Anonymous said...

Oh, and the meaning of "fucking" in Scandinavian in this context is the same as "damned". A direct translation of this title to English would be "Damned Åmål", which makes sense seeing as the kids in this film really hate Åmål.

Heathcote Safari said...

Uhm, interesting debate! I wondered the same thing as you, Jo - is it a second-language English thing? Like they don't really get what an offensive word it's intended to be?! Anonymous seems to miss the point: swear words are supposed to offend, to express strong emotion we struggle to otherwise convey. And apart from the fact that native English speakers reserve the right to use and feel about their own language the way they want (call me defensive!) I think we should teach kids to find other ways to express their emotions before they have to resort to 'fuck', or similar.

Just my tuppence-worth ;-)

Anonymous said...

Before going too far into the whole "swear-words-have-a-different-meaning-in-my-culture-than-in-yours"-thing it might be an idea to check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fucking_%C3%85m%C3%A5l and see what the film is all about. To learn about the film before going all judgemental on it.

komputrdaninternet said...

nice movie...

Anonymous said...

This is one of the things I appreciate about the Scandinavian culture: words are not dangerous.
There's no need to have such an adverse reaction to them.

JT said...

First off - LOL!! What a title!

Secondly, I would definitely say it is a cultural difference. Sometimes my students use English profanity in what is seemingly 'normal' conversation, and, frankly, it kind of freaked me out. I finally asked one of them about it and asked if she saw it as offensive, and she was genuinely surprised. Perhaps there is just not the same meaning attached to it if you are not a native speaker?

Michele said...

Interesting post and comments. Look what you've started here, Johanna!

I curse like a Marine in the privacy of my own home or when I'm in the company of people I know very well. When I slip up (as one does) and see I have offended someone with my language, I feel extremely self-conscious because, as Louise said, it's all about respect. It's about learning how to move within social norms.

As many people here point out, there must be a cultural difference in the understanding of the use of the word "fuck." I do think, though, that if people are using the word without an appreciation of it's "native" power, that's a sign of ignorance.

Anonymous, I do think that sometimes words can be dangerous, even in Scandinavia. For example, if you walk up to someone and call him an "ugly fucking faggot," you just might get your ass kicked.

Anonymous1 said...

It's all about context, of course. It's the same thing with regards to swearing in Scandinavian. In this film title the word isn't used to offend anyone in particular, just to make a statement more intense.

I don't believe that "ignorance" really comes into the picture here, in the way you describe. Fuck is used in this context as a Scandinavian loanword from English, that is, a word taken from "your" language and used in Scandinavian, as a Scandinavian word, with a somewhat different meaning. And, it's common to use (mostly Scandinavian) swear words in Scandinavian titles. Also, there's more than one Anonymous here.

Joanne said...

Interesting! I, like Michele swear like a sailor at home (I have tried to give it up on the 1st of every year), but that said, I would find this DVD cover offensive in the childrens section of the library. SAs are known to be conservative!

Anonymous1 said...

That's probably the main part of the issue, this library doesn't appear to have a separate youth section, so they've just thrown everything intended for under-18s into one area. I did see a "Star Wars" film in there, which I find much less appropriate for children than "Fucking Åmål", which is in essence a story about romance and the troubles of growing up being different.

Return to Norway said...

Definitely a cultural thing. But try explaining to your 8 year old who has gone to school in England - that when the other kids say 'fuck' to him in Norway - they are not offending him!

Ironically - I don't think most Norwegians quite appreciate the 'weight' of the English word they have adopted.

Call me old fashioned - I prefer my children to save the swearing for times when they wish to express great distress.

Aidan said...

That was one of the best Swedish films of recent years and the tole is totally appropriate since it comes from a line in the film which captures her frustration with dealing with her sexuality in thee small, conservative town (why do I have to live in f-ing Amal? substitute Kilrush, Mullingar etc. as appropriate).
You have a point about it being in the children's section but using the F word in the title is not in itself a problem for me. Actually I remember not so long ago the play Shopping and F**ing was doing well in London's West End. Have you listened to any Lady GaGa lyrics lately?
Today's bad language is tomorrow's normal language. As you might know in Spamnish one of the ways of saying something is brilliant is to say it is te puta madre which I won't bother translating.

(by Lukas Moodyson

Alan said...

Hey, leave Mullingar out of it! :)

The Scandinavians/Dutch have never been too caught up with words:-

1) Old, and funny ad:-
''A Day Trip''

2) Also for comparison:- 1971's ''Little Red Schoolbook'' from Denmark


Fantastic film but I get your concern, Johanna.
I lived in Germany for a bit and they were more freely inaappropriate with our English curse words for sure, not realising how bad they sound sometimes.
I was known as 'The Little Curser' as a child, and I still curse, but sometimes it seems 'worse' when a non native English speaker says them. Odd! It's to do with context and situation, I think.

Anonymous1 said...

@Return to Norway, Michele etc.: What you seem to be missing is that in this context, and the types of context I've been talking about throughout the word fuck is not used against anyone. I'm talking about using the word in question, or any other swear-word, in any language, as an uttering. That is, not aimed at hurting/offending/attacking anyone, but to underline feelings, mostly negative ones. Although, it must be added, in my part of Norway we use (Norwegian) swear-words in daily speech meaning. In Scandinavia most of us are very liberal, in most ways.

Anonymous2 said...

To Michele,

there is a difference of intent which is very important here. I believe I could easily call my friends "ugly fucking faggots" if the situation and my tone of voice indicated that I meant no offence.
I feel good about not being afraid of a word simply because it implies something sexual or religious or has something to do with bodily functions.

Furthermore, reading through the comments here it seems to me that many of those who opposes Norwegians' use of cursing (in English) have what I hope is an unintentionally condescending tone. Most Norwegians can understand and speak English at a very high level - in other words, they do understand the meaning and connotations of "fuck".
I'm even fairly certain that many English curse words can be traced back to old norse, as our languages has exchanged many words over the last millenia.

While I love English as a language and am constantly trying to improve my understanding of it, this is one case where I'll adhere to the customs of Scandinavia.
I simply don't feel that "fuck" is anything to worry about. It's only when we treat a word as 'bad' that it becomes bad. I don't wish to grant anyone else the power to make me have a physical reaction (such as shuddering) just by saying a word nor do I want that power for myself.

OSLO said...

Ok I think it's time for me to give my tuppence worth, since I started this discussion. Firstly, thank you all for your comments. My post stemmed from my surprise that someone would use the word 'Fucking' in the title of a movie, for children or otherwise, as this is not something that would happen in the English-speaking word. Surprise, I'm saying, not offense. To me it was irrelevant whether the movie was about a hooker called Åmål or about the story of the Virgin Mary; the fact was that in English we reserve the word 'fuck' for certain occasions/contexts/company and so this usage of it prompted me to ask if, in Scandinavia, the word was considered cooler or in a different way than in the English-speaking world. It seems very clear from the comments here, that this is indeed the case. So I've learned something new and have no problem with it. I am open-minded, interested in the culture I'm living in and accept its norms. I do though find it hard when some posting here insist on doing the exact opposite - not accepting that to use the word 'Fucking' in a movie or book title in English is offensive to some and not done. This is borne out by the fact that the title of this movie was indeed changed for international distribution. This is a fact. It is also a fact that if my children learned the word from the cover of this DVD and started to say 'fucking this and that' in Ireland they really would be considered foul-mouthed and my mothering skills would be called into question. It is not a question of whether this is right or wrong; this is the way it is! This is my cultural norm. So I hope we can all accept that we are all different, our languages are different, as are our usages of it. It is not for ANY of us to judge another's culture or language, is it? And I wasn't judging, just wondering, and I'm glad I did, because I've learned a lot from the discussion.

JEDA said...

What I don't get is why they can't just stick to their own damn swear words.

I'm annoyed everytime I hear Norwegian kids running around saying "Sheet!" "Oh sheet!" Not because they're kids and they shouldn't be using such languaage, but because they make it sound so stupid and affected.

I overheard a conversation on a bus not so long ago between two teenage girls, and both of them had this annoying habit of saying, "Og jeg tenkte, oh! fuck! liksom...."

Over and over again they threw it in the middle of their tiresome dialog, like a particularly long breathy hiccup. Sometimes it was 'Oh! sheet!' but mostly it was 'Oh! fuck!'

'Oh! fuck! liksom...'

Not that that has anything to do with the topic at hand. Just had to share...on account of it being so annoying....liksom....

Joanne said...

JEDA - liksom sounds like the Afrikaans word - bliksem which is a swear word meaning beat/hit/smack.

Johanna - great post and comments. I have to agree with you. Well put. Is the movie in English, if so, I would love a copy? We dont get Amazon here anymore.

Anonymous1 said...

Joanne: The film is in Swedish, but the international edition (called "Show me love", because of the American reaction to the original title) has English subtitles. Amazon's got it, but since you can't use that I would suggest googling "Show me love by Lukas Moodyson purchase". I found several sellers that way. Best of luck.

JEDA: Most of the people in Scandinavia who use English swear words are youths, and, yeah, you're right, it's kind of annoying seeing as we have a massive vocabulary of Scandinavian swear words for them to use instead. Nothing wrong with it, per se, and fully within their cultural rights, but we do have loads of Norwegian alternatives.

Anonymous said...

In general, most people who wouldn't dream of using a Norwegian swear word (almost all of which have a religious basis) would often have very little trouble using an English one. English swear words are tied to being vulgar whilst Norwegian ones are tied to being "bad" in a religious sense.

Obviously being vulgar in Norwegian isn't socially acceptable in all situations either, but using the English variant of it lessens the vulgarity. (A word like "shit" by the way, has no Norwegian equivalent that is considered vulgar at all.)

As to if we are ignorant about just how vulgar they are for those of English origins, you are probably right. In the southwestern parts of Norway you could get jailed/fined for "cussing out" a police officer, whilst in the northern parts of Norway "cussing" someone out is part of the daily culture.

A Norwegian, from southwestern Norway

Anonymous said...

For the title Fucking Åmål, it is a reference to the modern slang used by Scandinavian youth. The reason why the word "fuck" is used so liberal here is probably because of its original cultural context is lost when exported to a new culture.

While it is true Norwegians curses a lot, we mostly use words that's solely intended for cursing. "Faen" is a good example, while it historically meant "devil" it has today no negative cultural connection except being a curse word. However, if you use other curse words with a living connection, such as "Fitte"(directly translated to vagina), you will probably offend most Norwegians.

As you see, "fitte" is just like "fuck". In their own cultures they have connections to activities conservatively regarded as taboo, but when imported they loose this context and becomes solely a curse word in its new host culture and thus appear less offensive.