HOLLAND’S Federation Against Cursing – or Bond Tegen Het Vloeken to give it its proper name – is a quaint hangover from the Netherland’s past, but it is grimly hanging on to its original mission to get the Dutch to be less foul-mouthed.
With the arrival of darker, autumnal days, according to this report, some Dutch people tend to become more bad-tempered – and the Federation, almost 100 years old, has launched a new poster campaign at bus stops and in railway stations across the country to to combat profanity in general, and blasphemy in particular.
One poster depicts two beautiful swans showing fondness for each other, accompanied by the caption:
Talk to each other. Cursing is not necessary!
Earlier posters have become collectors’ items thanks to their originality. For the last soccer World Cup, the organisation chose an image of a striker with an angry face who had just missed a goal. The motto was:
A curse always shoots wide of the mark.
Last autumn the poster showed a colourful parrot and the words:
Cursing must be learned. Don’t repeat them in parrot-fashion!
The organisation was founded in 1917 by Calvinists and was originally called the Federation Against the Defilement of God’s Name Through Cursing. It not only tries to spread its message with posters, it also targets prominent people who, for example, use “fuck” or “goddamn!” on television.
In extreme cases it has been known to use the Netherlands’ legal system to achieve its goals. Paragraph 147 of the country’s penal code bans what it describes as “taunting blasphemy”. But it has been many years since anyone was convicted under this section of the law as judges give a high priority to free expression.
Three years ago the law was used to prosecute Madonna. The youth wing of a small Protestant party invoked it because the pop diva mimicked the crucifixion of Christ during her “Life to Hell” tour. The judge in the case said Madonna had a right to:
Express frustration over certain aspects of life.
Every year the organisation publishes its “Cursing Monitor”, which shows that the use of profanity has risen considerably in radio and television. That rise has been most pronounced on private TV stations and on many social network websites.
The organisation has not only tasked itself with highlighting profanity, it also makes suggestions on how to lessen it. It has strung together a list of alternative words to use in moments of stress. Many of them are botanical in origin: instead of “Shit!” why not try “Moss!” suggests the organisation. And “Goddamn!” could easily be replaced by “Rhododendron!”
If you care to suggest other alternative botanic profanities, please feel free to do so. Don’t blame me if you come across as a complete Dicksonia.