Swearing. It’s an emotive subject. Every so often it flares up as an issue of media interest but the debate is never settled and we carrying on effing and blinding.
Recent research by communications watchdog Ofcom seems to have detected a ‘softening’ of public attitudes to swearing in broadcast media. An article in The Guardian said the Ofcom report gives detailed guidance on public tolerance of bad language:
“loony”, “nutter”, “poof” and “queer” can be used at any time of day while the F-word remains unacceptable before the watershed…
The article went on to say:
Viewers are relaxed about words such as “bitch”, “wanker” and “shit” after the 9pm watershed, the research suggested, and are even willing to hear them earlier in some circumstances. Other words, including “pussy”, “fuck”, “motherfucker” and “cunt” are still considered to be unacceptable and should be barred pre-watershed, but very few objected to the them being used after 9pm.
I love that “are even willing…” Mary Whitehouse must be spinning in her grave.
The Daily Mail, bless it, carried out some research of its own and – surprise, surprise – came to the opposite conclusion. Their survey found that:
Swearing on television offends millions of viewers…A majority also believe bad language on television has worsened over the past decade and that it is directly responsible for an increase in swearing by youngsters, despite findings by Ofcom.
The TV watchdog’s study…was based on just 130 viewers with a disproportionate focus on minority groups, including travellers and transsexuals.
I love that “including travellers and transsexuals.” I guess Mary can stop spinning now.
Love it or hate it, the fact is that we’ll never stop swearing. There will always be words that are socially unacceptable or even taboo – but they’ll get said. Sometimes they are the only words that will adequately express your rage, pain, surprise, frustration or even delight. As a swearer I have to admit I enjoy letting rip – usually in the car – saying substitute words like ‘sugar’ or ‘frigging’ doesn’t do it for me.
Here’s the ubiquitous Stephen Fry on the irrational response of most people to swear words:
Gordon Ramsay is surely the King of the F-word. People actually count how many times he uses it during his TV shows.
Which brings me to an interesting idea – the swearer’s bank – first proposed more than 250 years ago in a satirical pamphlet by Jonathan Swift. His idea was, through an act of parliament, to levy a shilling from everyone caught indulging in ‘profane swearing’. In this way, the country could raise a ‘vast revenue’.
The British are known to be prolific swearers (Daily Mail readers excluded) and are perhaps swearing more than ever. We also happen to have a massive budget deficit. So…why not have a national swear box? There’s 61 million of us. By paying in a quid every time we swear, we could balance the budget in no time. Gordon Ramsay could single-handedly lead us out of recession.