I regret not swearing apartheid into oblivion

"Profanity [swearing] is the crutch of the conversational cripple." - David Keuck.

"Profanity [swearing] is the crutch of the conversational cripple." - David Keuck.

Now that you think I am quite clever, let me indulge you in some more of the utterances of Mr Keuck on the thorny subject of swearing.

He says: "When you are angry, count to four. But when very angry, swear."

He also says: "There ought to be a room in every house to swear in. It is dangerous to have to repress an emotion like that . under certain circumstances, urgent circumstance, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer."

And, finally: "Let us swear while we may, for in Heaven it will not be allowed."

An old schoolmate of mine has a kid brother who is a kwaito icon behind some of the most racy lyrics in the genre.

One day I commended the bigger brother on the talents of his younger sibling, to which he retorted sharply: "Talented? Ja. He is talented . in a profoundly profane way."

I am moved to write about insults today by an incident that happened some years ago when our Nguni-speaking compatriots decided to invent an insult that goes "umhlathi wakho!" Literally translated, that means "Your jaw."

It was the last live soccer game I attended at Johannesburg Stadium. I was seated among a rowdy crowd of Pirates supporters, who were totally displeased with the (white) referee's handling of the game.

After the game, as the referee entered the tunnel leading to the dressing rooms, an irate fan who had clearly been smoking something illegal, hollered loudly: "Mhlathi wakho man!"

The bemused referee, not understanding what was being said, stared blankly at the berserk man, who decided to make himself well understood: "I say your jaw man!"

The ref probably thought there was something stuck on his jaw, wiped it off with his open palm while thanking the man with the wave of his hand and vanishing into the tunnel.

Talking about swearing, my one regret was the numerous opportunities - and there were many - I wasted when I could have done my bit to swear apartheid into oblivion.

It was like this: being called a kaffir was nothing unusual. There was no way you could try to fight back - unless you wanted to end up with a broken neck. The only thing I could do was swear back - and wait for an explosion.

My favourite, spontaneous revenge "insult" to the kaffir jibe was: "Jou boer!"

None of the many whites I "swore" at even touched me. I thought I was a brave fire-eater who swore right back at racist whites. When they did not fight, I considered it a victory for my bravery.

Years later, I was deflated when countless white organisations sprung up all over the show celebrating the "boer". Boer this, Boer that . damn it.

They love it - and I thought I was insulting them.