Elizabeth Taylor could “..drink, belch, and swear with the best of them”
Such behaviour, she said, kept her real, kept her human which is no mean feat given Elizabeth Taylor’s rather extraordinary life. For starters there was the unusually dark blue of her eyes that made them seem otherworldly, then there was a mutation she was born with that gave her double eye lashes. (Take note Maybelline – she was born with it). Then there was her career which spanned over X years, and inlcuded two Academy Awards,x and earned her a 7th place ranking in the American Film Institute’s list of the “Greatist American Screen Legends” (Katharine Hepburn got the number one spot) And lastly there was her love life; the eight marriages, the Burton affair and the Fisher debacle. A 1949 Time cover declared her “a jewel of great price, a true star of sapphire”. I think we can all safely say it wasn’t that much of a stretch for her to portray Cleopatra, probably the most famous Egyptian pharoah of all time, a woman who saw herself as the reincaarnation of a goddess, whose very name means she came from a “glorious father”.
So I admire that Taylor made a conscious decision to drink, belch and swear to remind herself that despite her beauty, her fame, her life, she was still just one of us. Now some of us might be offended by her insinuation that such noble activities define us, separate us from the gods, which is rather amusing given their reputation for nefarious activity, I like it. I like that she could drink….a lot, giving even seasoned imbibers like Burton a run for his money. I like that she belched and didn’t feel obliged to bow to society’s preference for rather more lady-like behaviour, but most of all, I like that she swore. There is not much she and I have in common, Time magaazine have yet to comment on my gem-like allure- but it gives me great comfort to know that my predilection for profanity is shared by someone as divine as her.
Profanity, sweating, bad language- call it what you will, it can be rather contentious and elicit responses of shock and displeasure. And of course there are rules around when it can be used, where and by whom. It is often linked with intelligence, as in, if you use it you must not have much. What is interesting is how much our attitude towards it vary from class, and how despite claims that it is modern, it is a rather old ‘language’. Profanity has its origins from the Latin meaning ‘outside the temple’ and meant you were desecrating something that is holy, or with a secular purpose. It must not however be confused with blasphemy, which is a direct attack on a religion, or religious figures and is therefore a more serious and rule breaking offense. In English swear words tend to have a Germanic rather then a Latin etymology and can be found in writings from oh way back in the day. Some of the class associations stem from the Norman conquest when the local Saxon, and therefore German-language based- people became the lower, working classes to the Latin-based French nobles who came in and took over. Although this doesn’t quite explain why when researchers in the UK looked at its usage among the general population, it was the two groups at either end of the class spectrum that were the winners, with children of the higher classes the winners in their section. The group that use it least are the bourgeois; thanks to those pesky uptight Victorians and the rise of the middle class who being so desperate to establish/assert themselves they equated they took a stance against, well everything which included low brow curse words. The upper classes, being already established, didn’t have to give a f**k, and could, and did, swore away to their heart’s content.
However despite research proving that swearing can relieve the effects of physical pain and is a form of anger management, with tests even demonstrating that you will hold your hand submerged in a bucket of ice cold water for longer, if you shout expletives; many still associate swearing with vulgarity and a lack of education. And yes I think we can all accept that there are times and places where it is more or less appropriate, that the last thing we want to hear at a creche is f-this or b-that, and there are rules regarding publication of bad language.And I happily accept all that. What I don’t accept is someone making assumptions about me because I like to sprinkle my language with occasional flurries of swear words. Well okay so sometimes it’s more of a downpour, a monsoon. To say my language is colourful is to say Taylor’s gem taste was minimalist.
I realise I can’t stop people from judging me, but what I also realise now is that it says more about their priorities, their values, than it says about mine.That I am in good company – Taylor was adored by millions and despite her status treated everyone on set, no matter their standing in the pecking order, as equal. Unlike those folks with Victorian mores, she did not need to feel superior to others to feel content. And it is well known that she spoke and interacted with everyone on set – no matter their position – which can not be said by everyone of that or this time. Taylor swore, belched and drank to keep her real, well I’m all about keeping it real. So pass me,burp, another f***** drink!