September 26, 2021
Expletives may have lost some of their power to shock, but language is still weaponised by our leaders in dangerous ways
WTF! Now swearing on telly is off the taboo list
Sometimes, as Mark Twain so elegantly put it, “profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer”. In other words, when your boss is driving you mad, your kids are screaming, you’ve been on hold to your failing energy provider for longer than it would take to generate your own electricity and you’ve just dropped a hammer on your foot, the universe demands a long, lustily delivered “FUCK THIS!”. For at that point, no god is coming to save you.
But if the relief derives from the feeling of transgression, what happens when the taboo is lifted? The results of an Ofcom survey released last week suggests that swearing – as we perceive it via our television screens – no longer has the shock value it once did; and that we may no longer have much use for euphemisms such as “fudge”, “sugar” and “see you next Tuesday”. Certainly, the memorable “seven dirty words” routine created by American comedian George Carlin in the 1970s, which led to his repeated arrest and a government ruling in favour of continued censorship, is almost impossible to imagine.
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