Sweary Mary

March 25th, 2006 by Ben Goldacre in bad science | 243 Comments »

Greetings Diggers: And congratulations on crashing my server. I am Britain’s sweariest science writer, and I’d like to see any one of you beat this in the British Medical Journal. I write about pseudoscience in the media, quackery and health scares, like here on TV nutritionist Dr Gillian McKeith PhD, and here in my angry geek manifesto.

When I went to meet the editorial policy/legal people at the BBC, the first thing I wanted to know, as you can well imagine, was this: which swear words am I allowed to use?

I was shown a ranked list of rudeness. It was every bit as entertaining as I had hoped, but to my disappointment, there was no possibility of removing this fabulous document from the room. I don’t like to paint too much of a melodramatic picture, but the offending piece of paper was physically removed from my hand (I think they had the idea that I would scan it, post it on my blog, and write an article about it).

Anyway, I mentioned this to someone else from the BBC at a party recently: she sent me a copy this morning, and as you can see, I have indeed scanned it and posted it on my blog. Disappointingly the list turned out to be from a report which is freely available in the public domain here, but that doesn’t stop it being almost as funny as I remember.

Ooh, and in case you forgot: Positive Internet are gods.

rudeness


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243 Responses



  1. Robert Carnegie said,

    March 25, 2006 at 5:48 pm

    I was under the impression that cunt and twat are synonyms, but I can’t decide whether more people should know that, or fewer.

    How curious the range between “piss off” and “pissed off”. Emotion recollected in tranquility?

  2. Me said,

    March 25, 2006 at 5:50 pm

    Bollocks is a great word! Can’t believe anyone finds it offensive?

  3. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 25, 2006 at 5:52 pm

    that’s interesting. from asking around there seems to be a normal distribution for bollocks (i think it’s reasonably rude) whereas i suspect the nation is divided over twat, with more of a bimodal distribution: some people think it’s as bad as cunt, most think it’s on a par with tosser or fanny.

    could this be a regional thing?

  4. Larry said,

    March 25, 2006 at 5:57 pm

    Should’t they be split into verbs and nouns? If I say to the GLW that “the cuntin’ tele is not working”, she doesn’t reproach me. If I say the “tele is a right cunt and it’s not working”, I get told off. What the fuck’s all that about then ?

  5. stever said,

    March 25, 2006 at 5:58 pm

    Why is ‘Jew’ swearing?

  6. Anthony Cox said,

    March 25, 2006 at 6:10 pm

    At my school, people used to shout “Jew” at people they considered ungenerous.

    “Can I borrow your protractor”

    “No”

    “Jew!”

    To paraphrase Hitler comments in 1932 to a Japanese Mission, who were interested in how he was building his mass movement, as there weren’t any Jews at our school, they had to be invented…

    It is good to see words like Paki and Nigger rising up the charts in the space of two years.

  7. Pedantica said,

    March 25, 2006 at 6:14 pm

    Jesus! Why isn’t cocksucker in the motherfucking list?

    Seriously though if you anyone ever overhears you swearing and gives a disapproving look the best excuse is to simply claim you were quoting Chaucer.

  8. Dean Morrison said,

    March 25, 2006 at 7:01 pm

    Of course the truly authoratative work on the subject is ‘Roger’s Profanisaurus’ – availalble online at www.viz.co.uk/ – bank up to date with the latest additions e.g.:

    STOP FUCKING PRESS –
    Plum pearls from the latest issue:

    Thames whale n.

    A large turd which appears in the pan without any explanation, and which is reluctant to return to the sea.

  9. Delster said,

    March 25, 2006 at 7:13 pm

    have to admit that insulting someone in terms they don;t understand is often more fun than standard swearing (the joys of a large vocabulary)……

    Although some standard terms are exactly what is called for at the time… to quote General Custer “where the F**k did all those indians come from”

  10. moopet said,

    March 25, 2006 at 7:46 pm

    Do they give these to everyone who goes on? I find it odd to imagine a little old lady being asked about her lost cat and slipped a piece of paper with “fuck nigger wank bastard” on it first.

    And I like the way everyone’s taken the opportunity to swear in their comments. Aren’t we celver?

  11. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 25, 2006 at 8:02 pm

    when i am prime minister of the universe such documents will be given to every old lady who appears on screen. they’ll be set an exam in it too.

  12. Adam Bowie said,

    March 25, 2006 at 8:17 pm

    Well Tesco definitely finds “bollocks” rude.

    It’s curious to note that the recently published Bollocks to Alton Towers is slightly different in Tesco where it’s called “B****cks to Alton Towers.” WH Smith and Waterstones carry the unexpurgated title.

  13. Artiki said,

    March 25, 2006 at 8:27 pm

    Stored away with all the other crap I bought as a student is a live album by The Macc Lads. Instead of the traditional “one two, one two three four” (think Ramones), one track is counted in with “Fuck cunt, fuck cunt wank shit”.

    This has little relevence, I just wanted to swear a bit.

  14. keyrawn said,

    March 25, 2006 at 8:55 pm

    The simple answer is to use another language. If I say “yet mere” when commenting on the mcharacter of someone I am not in trouble unless they understand Thai.

  15. Jay said,

    March 25, 2006 at 9:53 pm

    This reminds me of a story recounted by John Simpson when he started out as a journalist in the BBC radio newsroom.
    When there was a discussion on how they should pronounce the name of a bombed village – Phuoc Me – so as not to offend the sensibilities of the nation, none of the alternatives were suitable, so it was decided to use the name of a neighbouring village instead.
    The next village was Ban Me Tuat.

  16. Yoav said,

    March 25, 2006 at 10:34 pm

    Isn’t that the script of the Jerry Springer Opera ???

  17. AitchJay said,

    March 25, 2006 at 10:53 pm

    Ben,
    Which ones are you allowed to use?

    (PS I notice Goddamn is absent, so is bloody hell – where the bloody hell is it? ;-) )

  18. pinguin said,

    March 25, 2006 at 11:01 pm

    I like that most of the racial ones have gone up the list of offensiveness over the years. Never really understood why people have problems with the anglo-saxon regulars since most of them don’t single out some minority group, except maybe bastard. But the racial ones are just unkind and nasty. People who use them should just… go away.

  19. JohnD said,

    March 25, 2006 at 11:22 pm

    I hate the overuse of the F and C words and all the rest, because they represent a lazy attitude to the use of English.
    I love words and phrases like ‘Thames whale’, which show the opposite.
    JOohn

  20. pv said,

    March 25, 2006 at 11:37 pm

    “since most of them don’t single out some minority group, except maybe bastard.”

    Actually I’m a bastard. So are my two brothers and my son. There are quite a lot of us about and I’m not sure we are a tiny minority. Anyway, I quite like the word and have been known to shout it at the slightest opportunity at suicidal Italian drivers who want to include me in their death plans – which is quite a lot, obviously. Now we are teaching my son to say things like “nincompoop” and “nitwit” on the basis that these are much worse, therefore desirable, than his preferred “bastard” and “wanker”.
    It seems to be fairly standard that dads always get the blame for teaching their kids all the distateful stuff. I am happy to admit to being a bit subversive sometimes. But only last week I overheard my wife muttering “shit” in response to some minor mishap before she took our son to school. The first thing his lordship remarked on his return that afternoon was that one of his friends (a 7-year old Italian boy who doesn’t speak English!) called him a shit. I had to laugh, which was greeted with a withering look of the invitation to die type. :)

  21. Pedantica said,

    March 25, 2006 at 11:53 pm

    It seems that bastard is probably entering a phase where most people will not know it’s common etymology and presumably one day people will express surprise when someone points out that it was originally used to refer to a child born to unmarried parents. “So why was that considered bad then?”

    Rather like how most people don’t realise sinister means left-handed. Because you know in the past all left-handed people were obviously linked with Santa.

  22. Delster said,

    March 26, 2006 at 12:41 am

    hmmm….. Pedantica must be extracting the michael with that last bit

  23. Dean Morrison said,

    March 26, 2006 at 12:57 am

    The third political party (The Citizens Party I think) used the slogan ‘Keep the Bastards honest’ in the 1995 election campaign there. ‘Bastard’ is pretty much used as a term of affection there.

  24. davoid said,

    March 26, 2006 at 1:14 am

    How about “big jobs”?

  25. Kimpatsu said,

    March 26, 2006 at 4:01 am

    So, “bloody” is still regarded as a swear word by the British? The Australians would disagree, as the recent advertising furore shows…
    Oh, and Ben, you can be Prime Minister of the Universe, but I am President of the Multiverse, so you still have to do what I say…

  26. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 26, 2006 at 10:03 am

    actually, on re-reading it, and in a note of uncharacteristic seriousness, what i find most disturbing from The Fuck Report is that “spastic” was broadcast as a term of abuse on trisha (appendix 3, page 53).

    www.asa.org.uk/NR/rdonlyres/1EAEACA7-8322-4C86-AAC2-4261551F57FE/0/ASA_Delete_Expletives_Dec_2000.pdf

  27. Delster said,

    March 26, 2006 at 10:35 am

    with many words the context and tone of expression are key to the word being an insult or not.

  28. pv said,

    March 26, 2006 at 11:36 am

    Ben, on the Trisha programme, if I remember it correctly, isn’t the audience generally hand picked to consist of people more stupid than she is.
    Appendix 3, p 53, also lists “oh God”, “oh my God”, “hot as hell”, “tits” and “fart” as offensive. The mind boggles – or would anyone find that offensive too? Frankly the more that “offensive” words are proscribed the more people will invent to replace them. In the US these days isn’t one apt to hear the expression “oh my gosh”, on the basis that god is too stupid to realise his name is being taken in vain. So I’d like to see that on the BBC list :). Then there’s the cringe making “frigging” instead of “fucking”, even though everyone knows what it means. And I always wondered about the American spelling of “arse” as “ass”.

  29. Malcolm Baxter said,

    March 26, 2006 at 1:14 pm

    “Keeps the bastards honest” in Australia’s recent history was coined by Don Chipp the renegade Liberal (read Conservative minister) who set up and led the Australian Liberal Democrats in the 1970’s

  30. Dean Morrison said,

    March 26, 2006 at 1:35 pm

    Perhaps that would be an good campaign slogan for Menzies Campbell? (although I think a few skeletons have fallen out of Liberal closets recently?).

    It would be interesting to know what the top 25 swear words are in other English -Speaking countries. My guess would be that ‘using Gods name in vain’ would figure higher than racist ones in certain states in America. As for Australia I’d guess that ‘English Swimming team’, Freddie Flintoff’, and ‘Johnnie Wilkinson’ might be higher up the list than elsewhere?

  31. chloella said,

    March 26, 2006 at 1:46 pm

    I think it is safe to say I won’t be accessing this site from work any more.

    Currently won’t let me access The Guardian as there is an article about child porn on there.

  32. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 26, 2006 at 1:50 pm

    oh fuck, i didn’t think about that.

  33. Big Les said,

    March 26, 2006 at 2:09 pm

    Er, PV [28]; “frigging” has a different meaning than “fucking” that’s equally rude (and one I thought most people were aware of). So if they’re using it as a stand-in, less offensive word, it’s a pretty poor choice.

    Even the perennial censored/dubbed action film staple “freaking” has a much stronger meaning than people realise.

  34. chloella said,

    March 26, 2006 at 2:22 pm

    The attempts made by the NHS to stop us looking at anything rude amound to what a good friend of mine refers to as a “monstrous pile of cunt”. It is far more touchy than Aunty BBC about naughty swearwords and I have apparently been reported to IT for trying to access the grauniad and countless other seemingly innocuous sites.

  35. Alex said,

    March 26, 2006 at 3:15 pm

    Heh, heh. Nice one Ben. I doubt that I will have problems with accessing this site as I do so from a University.
    *subsequently finds his access has been revoked*

  36. amoebic vodka said,

    March 26, 2006 at 4:06 pm

    It would have been fine without the comments – the swear words table is an image, so the filtering software would have never figured it out from that.

  37. pv said,

    March 26, 2006 at 5:21 pm

    Big Les, my point was that it’s used in the same context whether it’s freaking, frigging or fucking. The intention is the same so either they should all be prohibited (in which case we’ll just have to press-gang a few more innocuous words into expletive service) or none should be prohibited (and they’ll lose their attraction)..

  38. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 26, 2006 at 5:27 pm

    i think it would be a terrible shame if the prudes lost and swear words became less rude through overuse. to truly understand the joyous world we are preserving you only have to imagine an elderly posh woman saying the word “cock”. it’s about one thousand million times funnier than me saying it.

  39. Francois Gould said,

    March 26, 2006 at 6:54 pm

    speaking as an honorary posh person, I tend to find we swear like buggery.

  40. superburger said,

    March 26, 2006 at 7:01 pm

    I couldn’t give a flying fuck what words one can say on the BBC.

    I AM, however, exceedingly curious to know whether you can camp outside Gillian McKeith’s house all day, and if so what are your plans?

    Maybe a Cook Report style knock on the door? Or perhaps wearing a sandwich board highlighting some of her interesting ideas, or unusal qualifications, handing out leaflets like a Bad Science Hare Krishna.

    The possibilities are endless, rather like the stream of crap which pours forth from Mrs McK’s mouth.

  41. Ayupmeduck said,

    March 26, 2006 at 8:25 pm

    I don’t doubt that Anthony Cox means well when he says that “It is good to see words like Paki and Nigger rising up the charts”, but I’m not 100% sure.

    Many blacks have claimed the the word nigger back from the racists by using it between themselves. I’ve complained to a black friend of mine that it’s unfair that his niggers can call him nigger, but he wouldn’t want me to. He points out that it is not that he’d find it offensive, rather it would be embarrising for me to sound like a real life Ali G.

    I’ve got some “Paki” friends that find it a hoot calling each other bloody Paki’s, the joke being that like many people that have been taunted with the word Paki, they are actually from India.

    Hopefully, the relatively high amount of people that find Nigger, Paki and Jew “not swearing”, 18%, 24% & 51% respectively, are not just old fashioned rascists, but self respecting Niggers, Pakis and Jews.

  42. superburger said,

    March 26, 2006 at 8:44 pm

    ayumpmeduck,

    context is important. To hear a skinhead white racist calling another human being “nigger” is something I find unpleasant. But it doesn’t anger me to hear black people address each other as by the n-word.

    It’s similar to the use of the reclaimation of the word queer by homosexuals, or cripple by the disabled.

    On a more frivolous level you can say cock and bitch all day on telly as long as you’re talking about male fowl or female dogs, becuase the context is different.

  43. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 26, 2006 at 8:59 pm

    to quote a recent letter in viz: when i was a lad, gay was a perfectly good word for “homosexual”, now it seems to have a second meaning: airy, jovial, and frolicksome. when will these people stop meddling with the english language?

  44. superburger said,

    March 26, 2006 at 9:35 pm

    i tried typing “reclaimation of the word queer by gay people” but it didn’t seem to scan very well, but then again calling someone a homosexual sounds quite negative.

    Interesting that ‘queer, poof, dyke, etc etc.’ don’t appear in the BBC’s rude list, while racist language does. Is racist abuse more shocking than homophobic abuse?

    Calling people a mongol or cretin isn’t very nice either, but only spastic makes the list. Did the BBC select this list? Maybe c4 could do a “The Nation’s 100 favourite foul words.” special.

  45. superburger said,

    March 26, 2006 at 9:38 pm

    I’ve just remembred how hilarious it is to hear Americans talk about thier fannies.

  46. simond said,

    March 26, 2006 at 9:44 pm

    re: “twat” being a synonym for “cunt” – the thing with this one is that many people – especially older people who might be more likely to complain, don’t know what it means. If they hear it, they probably assume it’s a variation on “twit”. I remember an interview with Lee and Herring expressing their bewilderment and pleasure at using the word (both spoken and written on a blackboard in shot for some time) on This Morning With Richard Not Judy, which went out at noon on Sundays.

    Also remember that it didn’t seem that rude when it first started getting used at my school in the 80s – there was a persistent rumour that a twat was “a pregnant goldfish”, which just seemed odd.

  47. Big Les said,

    March 26, 2006 at 10:31 pm

    PV; I understand and agree re your point about transposing innocuous words in stead of the “classics” (ie fuck). Mine in turn was that if they’re using “frigging”, they’re hopelessly misled, because “frigging” means to fuck with the fingers – surely just as bad.

  48. Richard said,

    March 26, 2006 at 10:38 pm

    “God” is a swear word!? I wonder if the pope knows.

  49. michael said,

    March 26, 2006 at 10:46 pm

    I’d always been led to believe that a ‘twerp’ was a pregnant goldfish

  50. Filias Cupio said,

    March 27, 2006 at 5:06 am

    The rating of “shag” is a bit tough on ornitholigists. Interestingly, dog lovers (canophiles?) get off scott-free.

    Here in NZ, there’s been a major ad campaign around the word “bugger.”

  51. charles in utah said,

    March 27, 2006 at 5:12 am

    wanker, bollocks and paki are swear words?

    Got to hand it to your brits — those are not even heard of here in the US of A where swearing is, sadly, a very uncolorful passtime, limited to a much shorter list of very dreary and vastly overrused words.

    You are so fortunate, and I bet you don’t even realize it.

    ct

  52. M said,

    March 27, 2006 at 8:22 am

    ‘Twat’ also depents on where you come from. I’ve happil used it in relatively polite circles as a verb, meaning to hit hard (eg, Just give that nail a good twat, twat it one etc). It was only on moving that I found out (only 6 months ago) about the other meaning of twat.

  53. superburger said,

    March 27, 2006 at 9:07 am

    Charles in Utah,

    Wanker and Bollocks are relativley mild curses, and do get used quite freely, but Paki is a rather nasty racist description for anyone of indian subcontinental appearance, it’s not a word I think anyone in the UK should be proud to have in their vocabulary. cf nigger

  54. boro_dave said,

    March 27, 2006 at 9:24 am

    charles in utah said: “wanker, bollocks and paki are swear words?

    Got to hand it to your brits — those are not even heard of here in the US of A”

    Which is why the British actress on ER can get away with saying wanker every week without being sensored. If only the audience knew what she was saying – presumably the writers do and it’s a big inside joke on set.

    Plus, glad to see a more sensible attitude from the Aussies:

    www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/main.jhtml?xml=/sport/2006/03/24/scashe24.xml&sSheet=/sport/2006/03/24/ixsport.html

  55. Jay said,

    March 27, 2006 at 10:10 am

    Charles in utah,

    Paki isn’t offensive in the US? That might explain why George Bush failed to realise the offence he caused referring to the tensions between Indians and Pakis.
    I seem to remember quite a bit of upset about that in this country.

    ( Guardian article
    www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,629781,00.html )

  56. Sockatume said,

    March 27, 2006 at 11:06 am

    Should I be ashamed that this list is the funniest thing I’ve read in years?

  57. Chris L said,

    March 27, 2006 at 11:15 am

    This may be an urban myth, but I believe that calling someone a ‘berk’ should be considered much ruder than it is, because it’s from the rhyming slang ‘berkely hunt’. Again, it’s all to do with context and the intentions (perceived or actual) of the user of the word. Also, as Billy Connelly (spelling?) noted, ‘cunt’ and ‘fuck’ sound much more aggressive than any of their synonyms… a load of skinheads running around calling people ‘mimsy’ just wouldn’t have the same credibility.

    Re: ‘bollocks’ meaning nothing in the US: cgi.ebay.co.uk/USA-official-Maine-number-plate-BOLLOX_W0QQitemZ6615421676QQcategoryZ421QQssPageNameZWD4VQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

  58. Ken said,

    March 27, 2006 at 11:25 am

    A friend of mine used to work for a Large Pharmaceutical Company. The IT droids installed a new netnanny system which filtered out pages containing, for instance, the word ‘breast’. Some of the breast cancer researchers found this a little inhibiting.

  59. Melissa said,

    March 27, 2006 at 11:41 am

    Jay– No, I’m not aware of the word Paki being used in America at all. I had never even heard it until I saw the film Bend It Like Beckham (“Ummm, well, she’s crying, so that must mean a bad thing, right?”). Also, the word buggger doesn’t seem to carry the same meaning over here. We frequently use it as an innocuous synonym for “annoying person.” I didn’t learn any other meaning for the word until in college when a friend said it within earshot of an English priest.

    Also, I love the word “sodding,” but it just doesn’t seem to sound right in an American accent.

  60. Kess said,

    March 27, 2006 at 11:43 am

    Not really a swear word as such (not yet anyway), but I’m embarrassed to say I had to look up the meaning of “bukkake” the other day.

    (This was in response to someone pointing it out in a poorly worded Chinese takeaway menu – I didn’t get the joke until I found out what it meant. Or perhaps the Chinese girl behind the counter was trying to make some extra money on the side ;) )

  61. Andrew Clegg said,

    March 27, 2006 at 11:55 am

    I also used to work for a Large Pharmaceutical Company and had similar problems, so I set up a private ssh server on my machine at home and routed any verboten traffic through that. Problem solved. Can give more detailed instructions if anyone needs them (probably by email rather than on here).

    Re. the word ‘bastard’, I recently went for lunch at the Middle Temple in London — where the barristers train and practise from — and was amused to find, on a board listing all the distinguished treasurers through the ages, that the gentleman holding that office in 1613 was one William Bastard. (Well you’d have to end up in the legal profession with a name like that I suppose.)

    Re. the word ‘shag’, why is that so high up the list? I thought it was one of those almost-polite-euphemisms-for, like ‘bonk’. Must annoy tobacconists and carpet-makers too.

    Andrew.

  62. superburger said,

    March 27, 2006 at 12:00 pm

    When I lived in the states, I remember gonig round to the (American,) girlfriends for dinner. Her mother had been watching Billy Elliot / Full Monty or suchlke and asked me over coffee “What does wanker mean.”

    The fact that here 9 year old sister was sitting right next to me didn’t make it an easy moment.

    from my time there, I rememver people commenting on how much my British friends and I seemed to swear compared to Americans. Maybe we had paticularly bad potty mouths though…..

  63. Martin said,

    March 27, 2006 at 12:03 pm

    Post 18 mentioned the use of ‘Anglo-Saxon regulars’.

    I presume that this refers to fuck and cunt, mainly because of the Lady Chatterley’s Lover court case where because the members of the court were uncomfortable saying the words they were referred to as ‘four letter words of Anglo-Saxon origin.’

    Well, cunt comes from the Latin ‘cunnus’, meaning female genitalia, and I’ve been told that fuck was originally from 18th century police charge sheets for prostitutes; the arrest being ‘for unlawful carnal knowledge’. A similar acronym is ‘known as male prostitute’, from where the word ‘camp’ came from. However, I suspect that I’ve just fallen into an Alun Davies style trap and Stephen Fry will be sounding loud bells soon. (Apologises to readers from outside the UK.)

  64. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 27, 2006 at 12:05 pm

    i guess shag is a good indicator of the general tone of a conversation surrounding it. when describing the beautiful, natural, and vital act of conjugation between a man and a woman “intercourse” suggests one kind of narrative and “shag” means a very different one is taking place.

  65. God said,

    March 27, 2006 at 12:07 pm

    My name is a swear word?! If the Pope knows he didn’t tell me.

  66. censored said,

    March 27, 2006 at 12:21 pm

    May I humbly suggest ‘twunt’ as a rather pleasing and inoffensive new word for when twat or cunt might get you into trouble?

  67. Leo F said,

    March 27, 2006 at 12:22 pm

    I was once severely reprimanded at school for calling someone a ‘Flid’ and once it was explained to me that it meant someone who had been born with limb deformities from maternal use of Thalidomide I was quite shocked and disgusted.

    I wonder if this is a word that has a very specific timeframe and period of offensiveness that has largely passed due to the reinstatement of Thalidomide as a cancer treatment? It is a word I cannot recall being used on the BBC.

  68. superburger said,

    March 27, 2006 at 12:27 pm

    twunt, a made up swear word rather like the word ‘smeg’ in Red Dwarf. Is smegma (sp?) not the medical term for a dried discharge around the foreskin?

    How does a word cross the line from acceptable to unacceptable. When, for example, did ‘gay’ cross the line to primarly mean, er gay, rather than cheerful.

    Refering to the original post, could Gillian McKeith be referred to as a twunt?

  69. pv said,

    March 27, 2006 at 12:45 pm

    ‘for unlawful carnal knowledge’

    This is an urban myth. The word predates that by several centuries.
    Bill Bryson, in his book “Mother Tongue” (which I recommend to all), suggests the word has been around for centuries if not millennia. He says that, according to Montagu, “fuck” first appeared in print in 1503 in a poem by William Dunbar.
    Bryson makes interesting reading with regard to swearing. For example he writes that in England, in the 16th century, “zooterkins” was, as he put it, “a pretty lively word”. In the 19th century “puppy” and “cad” were “highly risqué”. He points out also that, until the 1870’s, it was much worse to profane than to swear.

  70. RW said,

    March 27, 2006 at 12:50 pm

    Broadcasting’s position on swearing: puritanical, juvenile and patronising. Complaining about naughty sweary words to Offcom or whoever rarely amounts to more than “Miss! Miss! He said a dirty word!” and the sooner the Beeb realises that someone will be offended whatever you say the better. Retrieving the offensive words list pretty much sums up the paranoid fear that programme makers have these days of upsetting some imbecilic bluestocking with nothing better to do.

    And what is the worst that can happen? Somehow mass civil disorder is unlikely to result. Nor is it probable that will we all turn into frenziedly copulating madmen and women. More likely is that people will get tired of these words being used and they will fall into decline – users being seen as desperate individuals looking to shock their audience as a substitute to educating, informing or entertaining (or should that be entertaining, entertaining and entertaining in this post Reithian New Labour vision for the BBC?). Either that or TV will become a foulmouthed 24/7 swearfest and widespread anarchy will decend on the nation. Time for an experiment the whole nation can participate in – we will never know unless we try it.

  71. ACH said,

    March 27, 2006 at 12:52 pm

    Ha ha. Gillian McKeith could be referred to as many of the things listed above -allegedly (in best Have I got News for You disclaimer mode)

    I have had a number of interesting conversations with American friends relating to terms like wanker and bollocks, also shag and “have a fag break” mostly from Bend it Like Beckham, reading English novels (the ones that haven’t been “translated” into American ) or, of course, just listening to me. In return I suggested that they refrain from frequently talking about fanny-packs whilst on our shores.

    My Aussie boss assures me that Pommy Bastard is a term of endearment – but he also said “cricket’s only a game” through gritted teeth after the Ashes

  72. RW said,

    March 27, 2006 at 12:56 pm

    Bloody twatting fucking keyboard – that’s descend you mofo.

  73. pv said,

    March 27, 2006 at 1:01 pm

    Actually, does anyone wonder at the kind of people who write to the Beeb to complain about foul language. Are they complaining on their own behalves or for someone else. I know some complainants are charitably worried that we’ll all descend into an abyss of depravity if we are subject to a bit of colourful language – it’s a selfless task, saving the world! Others maybe are embarrassed and are looking for someone to blame for that. I don’t know. It just seems to me such a wierd thing to do. I’ll bet many of the “disgruntled of Tunbridge Wells” types were only to happy to sing along to the surreal “Black and White Minstrel Show”. Strange memories of my childhood.
    While I’m on the subject of my childhood, would Alf Garnet be allowed on TV today? Probably not, more’s the pity.

  74. superburger said,

    March 27, 2006 at 1:01 pm

    RW,

    Kids in playgrounds call each other cunts every day. Should Grange Hill (if still on) show kids calling each other cunts at 5pm on a weeknight?

    You might suggest that programme makers will use their judgment, but as we all know, scandal sells and without certain guidlines it wouldn’t be long till all sorts of naughty grown up words would be heard on CBBC.

    If you had a disabled child would you be happy (even in your presence) for disabled people to be referred to as mongols/flids/spaccers, etc etc.

  75. Nettles said,

    March 27, 2006 at 1:05 pm

    I wonder whether “Jew” here is the verb “to jew” rather than the noun, “Jew”.

    “He wanted twenty bucks for it, but I jewed him down to ten” is quaint, but not unknown, in the US. (It’s also pretty frickin’ offensive.)

  76. andy brown said,

    March 27, 2006 at 1:15 pm

    speaking of rudeness in supermarkets,
    FULL MARKS to the bored junior designer for the box designed to hold leaflets for tesco’s ‘mumo f the year’ competition. In large text right across the side it said

    ENTER YOUR MUM TODAY !

    now, being filthy withouy swearing, there’s a skill and a half.

  77. Andrew Clegg said,

    March 27, 2006 at 1:51 pm

    Andy, that deserves being sent to Private Eye for all to see!

    Superburger, I had a similar ‘wanker’ moment, but with a Chinese PhD student in my office. Some of us were giggling over a paper by one Erich Wanker, and said student asked us what it meant… She comes across as being sweetly naive so we didn’t have the heart to tell her, so she looked it up.

    Moments later she pipes up, “it says another word that I don’t know the meaning of, M – A – S…” The rest was drowned out in fits of giggles all round.

    Actually this has given me an idea for a forums thread…

    Andrew.

  78. Alex B said,

    March 27, 2006 at 2:03 pm

    im glad knob is allowed. i would quite like to see pauline fowler in her next tirade against sonya shouting down the street “don’t come near my boy again you stinky knobface”

  79. Pedantica said,

    March 27, 2006 at 2:24 pm

    By the way has anyone else seen the hilarious start to the US version of Four Weddings and a Funeral. In the original the first twenty or so words are ‘Fuck’ as Charles and Scarlette rush to make the first wedding. But in the US I caught a version where these had all been dubbed over with ‘Bugger’, as I remember it the dubbing itself was quite poor which added to the hilarity. It seemed surprising that buggery should be more acceptable than fucking but there you go.

  80. Michael Harman said,

    March 27, 2006 at 2:36 pm

    Martin said that “cunt” is not Angle-Saxon, but “comes from the Latin ‘cunnus’, meaning female genitalia”.

    The Oxford English Dictionary Supplement gives the derivation : ME. cunte, count(e), corresponding to ON. kunta (Norw., Sw. dialect hunta, Da. dialect hunte), OFris., MLG., MDu. kunte;- Gmc. *kunton wk. fem.; ulterior relations uncertain. It regards “cunny” as a diminutive of “cunt”, but perhaps influenced by “cony” (rabbit), which has a subsidiary sense of woman, sometimes indecently.

  81. Leo F said,

    March 27, 2006 at 2:42 pm

    There was a time in the not-too-distant past (early-mid 90’s) when movies on mainstream TV in the UK were heavily edited and overdubbed, even if shown after the watershed. This led to me being confused for years about the plot of Beverly Hills Cop because it had been rendered illegible by savage cutting.

    I remember a showing of Robocop where the titular hero was addressed as “One BAAAADDDD MOTHERCRUNCHER!!!”. Somewhere in the mid-90’s this all went out the window and it suddenly became possible to broadcast anything. Channel 4 had long given up their ‘Red Triangle’ warning before broadcasts and just decided that anything goes. Seems like the Daily Mail has been pissing in the wind for sometime. I wonder what caused the change?

  82. Pedantica said,

    March 27, 2006 at 2:49 pm

    Michael Harman,

    “Dr. Samuel Johnson: Sir! I hope you’re not using the first English dictionary to look up rude words!

    Edmund Blackadder: I wouldn’t be too hopeful; that’s what all the other ones will be used for.” Blackadder the Third

  83. superburger said,

    March 27, 2006 at 2:51 pm

    I can remember seeing the c4 preimiere of Silence of the Lambs way back when.

    Clarice is visiting Hannibal in prison and he says “Clarice, I can smell your scent” (in the film scent == cunt) but it was so badly dubbed that Anthony Hopkins rich thespian tones were replaced by what sounded like Stephen Hawkins choking on a peanut….

    Point is, after the watershed, and with appropriate warning, there’s really no need to censor films on TV this day and age. Nobody is fooled.

  84. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 27, 2006 at 3:00 pm

    amazing there should be all that violence and theyre worried about some swearing.

  85. superburger said,

    March 27, 2006 at 3:21 pm

    Apparently the word cunt was too shocking for a c4 audience watching a film about a cannibalistic serial killer after 10pm in the evening.

    Maybe we all live in a nation of prudes.

    I’m quite fond of the Guardian for its apparent policy of not ****ing out words like f*** or s*** unlike other papers. I think if you’re old enough to be buying a broadsheet then you can cope with a few profanities with your cornflakes.

  86. BSM said,

    March 27, 2006 at 3:46 pm

    “Do they give these to everyone who goes on? I find it odd to imagine a little old lady being asked about her lost cat and slipped a piece of paper with “fuck nigger wank bastard” on it first.”

    Fearing that she might take it as a literal instruction?

  87. Andrew Clegg said,

    March 27, 2006 at 4:02 pm

    Michael H. — apparently the words ‘channel’ and ‘canal’ come from the same root, according to someone’s MA thesis on the word in question that I read once… Now that’s the sort of humanities research I’m sure we can all approve of.

    Andrew.

  88. RS said,

    March 27, 2006 at 4:15 pm

    It’s weird that ‘gay’ is now a general derogatory term amongst kids (‘that’s gay’, ‘you’re gay’ etc.) when even when I was a kid not so long ago it just meant homosexual (with the slimmest nod to ‘happy’).

    I love the use of ‘***’ to somehow visually bleep a swear word. It makes absolutely no sense to leave the beginning and end letters in so you can figure out what the word is (d********g m**********r nothwithstanding) unless you believe that swear words are some sort of magic rune that makes bad things happen when they’re fully transcribed.

  89. RW said,

    March 27, 2006 at 4:52 pm

    Superburger (74) – Kids calling each other cunts on CBBC or at 5pm? Certainly no problem for me if there is artistic or educational merit in it (highly unlikely but it would be hilarious to see the uproar if they did). Responsibility for bringing up responsible kids lies with me, not TV. Saying that writers, directors, commisioning editors and producers don’t know what is acceptable without a list strikes me as a tad nannyish.

    Would I care if I had disabled kids and someone on TV or radio referred to them as mongols/flids/spaccers, etc etc? Yes – I would view the speaker of those words with the contempt they deserve just as I do any racist using derogatory terms – the same contempt if they were to do it in front of me.

    The funniest thing about the Four Weddings opening scene was how contrived it was: “Gee Honey – look at that limey saying fuck in his funny accent”. On the other hand the implied violence of Hannibal’s statement is lost when dubbed over (badly). Personally I am more uncomfortable with the subject matter of Silence of the Lambs pre watershed than I am the language it uses.

    The best send up of badly overdubbed swearing has to be Harry Enfield:
    “And now on BBC 2, Martin Scorcese’s Badfellas, which has been specially ruined for television”
    “Did you fun my wife ?”
    “No I didn’t fun your wife”
    “Fun you, you muddy funster”
    “Suck my cake, you cake-sucker”
    “Suck my lozenge”

    And if cunt is the new fuck, what will replace cunt?

  90. stever said,

    March 27, 2006 at 5:06 pm

    Does society have a need for forbidden words? otherwise why would they still exist? Isnt the way they are treated by lists like the above the reason they are perpetuated? Seems sort of self fulfilling really.

  91. Ben Goldacre said,

    March 27, 2006 at 5:18 pm

    i think swear words are needed, and do require popular consent, which is why it’s so interesting to see their role and ranking formally operationalised in an official document like this one. what’s also interesting to me is the idea of new words entering the list of what is forbidden: most of the above are either sexual, or words describing minority groups and disabilities.

    there are new terms of abuse that stand outside of these categories, like noob, or troll, but they’re not considered rude, perhaps because they were born into less prudish times, or perhaps because they are not figurative enough, identifiying one thing with another metaphorically.

    what’s also interesting is the transition in meanings over time. there is a well recognised semantic shift constantly ongoing in terms to refer to people of low intelligence, from the clinical and technical to the abusive (“cretin” and “differently abled” were both once neutral terms). but maybe these phrases can also move back into more neutral positions over time.

    for example, spastic today is rightly considered a bad word to use, but it has been so long since cretin had a biomedical flavour that it’s no longer considered very offensive.

  92. jack douglas said,

    March 27, 2006 at 5:51 pm

    Further to pv’s comment (#69):

    David Wilton in “Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends” (Oxford University Press, 2004) has a few pages on the origins of fuck, including this:

    ‘…The earliest known use is from ca. 1475 in a poem written in a mix of Latin and English and entitled Flen flyys. The relevant lines read: “Non sunt in celi/ quia fuccant uuiuys of heli.” Translated, it reads: “They [the monks] are not in heaven/ because they fuck the wives of Ely [a town near Cambridge].” Fuccant is a pseudo-Latin word and in the original manuscript is written in cipher to further disguise it.’

    Wilton goes on to say that:

    “Some sources cite an alleged appearance of the word in 1278 as a personal name, John le Fucker. The problem with this is that no one has properly identified the document this name supposedly appears in, and it may not truly be a thirteenth century citation. This alleged 1278 name can only be traced to 1949, when it was mentioned in Carl Buck’s dictionary of Indo-Eurpean roots. Unfortunately Buck never identifies the source so we cannot check its validity or the context in which the name appears.”

    Wilton doesn’t mention Montagu or Dunbar.

  93. RW said,

    March 27, 2006 at 6:03 pm

    The temporal shift in terms and offensiveness is an interesting one. A fifteen year old relative I spoke to recently said that the term spaz or spastic was not used or even considered amusing – Scoper is the sniggering insult du jour. This seems to indicate that the conditions warranting abuse or ridicule remain reasonably constant whilst the terminology can shift. A cautionary tale for charities looking to change their image relying on semantics alone if ever there was one.

  94. mdk said,

    March 27, 2006 at 6:06 pm

    “Is smegma (sp?) not the medical term for a dried discharge around the foreskin”

    I remembered looking this up when Red Dwarf first came out and was so pleased to note my Longman’s described it as: “A cheesy, sebacious, liquid found around the head of the penis”, it’s the cheesy that makes that description for me.

  95. Delster said,

    March 27, 2006 at 7:16 pm

    PV in 73 you mentioned Alf Garnet… do you remember a sitcom called “love thy neighbour”….. white guy living next door to a black guy and i quote “i’ll call a spade a spade”

    one of my fav words at the moment is Nadgers…. as in a swift kick in the nadgers or oh nadgers as a 1000 agent call centre system dies in front of you!

  96. BSM said,

    March 27, 2006 at 7:21 pm

    “And if cunt is the new fuck, what will replace cunt?”

    We know the answer to that. It was John Major.

  97. stan said,

    March 27, 2006 at 7:31 pm

    So it is quite possible that a Wanker thought up Brain Gym then?

  98. superburger said,

    March 27, 2006 at 8:14 pm

    RW,

    I don’t think it is at all nannyish to suggest the people don’t want to listen to a stream of four letter words at tea time. I can see a certain set of circumstances where the use of the word mongol to describe a Down’s syndrome child in a well made childrens programme might be powerful and educational, but I guess the majority of the UK public would disagree (I can see the screaming mail headlines now.) I guess at the moment the level of censorship on TV is about right. I know I could enjoy a tea time sunday drama with a 5 year old without worrying about having to explain why calling someone a nigger/paki/mongol/flid etc is wrong. That’s something I’d rather chose when to do.

    By the same token, I’m glad the the BBC had a the balls to show Jerry Springer and not be dictated to by zealots.

    I guess it’s about meeting the needs of the majority, especially considering how the BBC in paticular is funded. given that my cable package has about 200 channels to choose from (from red hot 40+ wives to the god channel and eveything in between) I reckon there’s plenty of choose from. Or maybe my tastes are quite parochial, I don’t know.

  99. Michael Harman said,

    March 27, 2006 at 10:15 pm

    There’s a story about a court case where the defendant, giving evidence, effed and blinded almost every second word. (I’m old enough to prefer the old style.) Until he was asked what then happened between the woman and him, whereupon his volubility dried up, and he eventually muttered “Well, I had sexual intercourse with her”.

  100. GJF said,

    March 27, 2006 at 10:30 pm

    Berk is a good one – from the cockney rhyming “Berkshire Hunt”

    Also, try to explain “toss pot” to an American!

  101. pv said,

    March 27, 2006 at 10:39 pm

    Jack Douglas, here is another source that gives William Dunbar credit for putting the fucking word into print.
    www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~crumey/william_dunbar.html
    It’s referenced again here:
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Dunbar#First_printed_obscenity

  102. Nenya said,

    March 27, 2006 at 11:59 pm

    I only read as far comment #90 or so and I noticed that at least as far as there that there has been plenty of discussion about it being nannyish etc (and I agree that is often somewhat OTT) but nobody has mentioned that The List is based on a survey (quite regular by the looks of it) of the population asking THEM what THEY find offensive and therefore screening it out. I should imagine the general point is to reflect attitudes rather than to shape them.

  103. Melissa said,

    March 28, 2006 at 12:34 am

    GJF–

    Yep, I, for one, had to look “toss pot” up. On the bright side, I found this helpful site called the English-to-American Dictionary, so my time was well-spent.

  104. Filias Cupio said,

    March 28, 2006 at 1:02 am

    I didn’t know about the word “cunnus”. Given this, why did we choose to use a different Latin word, which (once you know the meaning) is all too graphic?

  105. Dave said,

    March 28, 2006 at 2:59 am

    Someone, somewhere will get their knickers in a twist about the sexism on this list. Notice how words for the female genetalia – cunt, twat – rank much more offensive than for their male counterparts – dickhead, bollocks and others(dick, widget, tool etc)that don’t even make the list.

    As much as I’m poking fun, it does reflect upon societies attitude to gender equality. The male and female terms should be similarly offensive; though where, that is for others to decide.

  106. Adam said,

    March 28, 2006 at 5:01 am

    A couple of random items:

    1) I’m surprised that no one’s mentioned “feck” as used by the Irish (mainly) instead of “fuck”. Sort of the swearing equivalent of groucho marks nose and glasses in the gisguise front.

    2) Instead of “Twunt” how about “Cat”? Actually one very well unknown footy messageboard uses “aunt”.

  107. Kimpatsu said,

    March 28, 2006 at 5:48 am

    Is this thread going to break the record for posts?

  108. Kadin said,

    March 28, 2006 at 6:51 am

    Hehe. I love that ‘Jew’ is placed on there.

    NARRATOR: Albert Einstein was an ethnic Jew…
    EXECUTIVE: Cut! Cut!
    NARRATOR: What did I do? You told me to use the information and improvise something that sounded natural.
    EXECUTIVE: Yeah, I know, and you were doing great, right up until you said ‘Jew’. You can’t say Jew on TV. Some people find it offensive. Say ‘Non-Jesus Christian’ or ‘Israelite’ instead.

  109. Sockatume said,

    March 28, 2006 at 8:37 am

    “Someone, somewhere will get their knickers in a twist about the sexism on this list. Notice how words for the female genetalia – cunt, twat – rank much more offensive than for their male counterparts – dickhead, bollocks and others(dick, widget, tool etc)that don’t even make the list.”

    If I were a pedantic linguist with a Freudian streak, I’d make some witty remark about the phrase “knickers in a twist” right now, but I’m not. ;)

  110. Leo F said,

    March 28, 2006 at 8:39 am

    Once saw camp designer Wayne Hemingway make a comment about thieving ‘Pikeys’ stealing from council tips and discussing their clothes on C4’s ‘The Big Breakfast’. Comments were later denounced onscreen by Kelly Brook and all the crew and I have never witnessed such an instantaneous and snivelling apology from a channel that will broadcast virtually any human depravity or use of language but which shit itself when their switchboard got jammed by ‘travelling folk’ threatening to kneecap the Red or Dead maestro and anyone else in the BB cottage.

    The terms ‘Pikey’ ,’Gypsy’ “Gyppo’ etc were used extensively when I was at school and yet now you can find yourself in serious trouble with the CRE if you use them unwittingly, even though ‘Gypsy’ is a term that they use to refer to themselves. I think that it is more problematical than the word ‘Jew’.

  111. Andrew Clegg said,

    March 28, 2006 at 9:07 am

    Dave, post 105: ‘Widget’ means ‘penis’? Whereabouts?!?

    I don’t suppose there are many graphical user interface programmers there, it must be all too amusing…

    Andrew.

  112. superburger said,

    March 28, 2006 at 9:44 am

    Thieving gypsie, thieveing Jew = ungood.

    Is it ok for wayne hemmingway, despite his achingly hip glasses to imply that all travellers are thieving gypos?

    In that case it would be just as acceptable to have another racist on talking about thieving Pakis, or thieving Jews. Just because Wayne has got a smart suit and some hip glasses doesn’t make his racist outburst more acceptable.

    “The terms ‘Pikey’ ,’Gypsy’ “Gyppo’ etc were used extensively when I was at school.”

    Is playground language of yesteryear OK then? I’m glad the CRE take action against people who see fit to abuse travellers.

    My gran had a dog called nigger (like the dog in Dambusters) when she was a child. Not acceptable today. The word has changed and become very unpleasant.

    Kids with Down’s used to exhibit ‘mongoloid idiocy’ doesn’t mean it’s right today.

  113. Leo F said,

    March 28, 2006 at 10:52 am

    I always thought that Gyppo and Pikey were of about the same order as Frog or Kraut – probably less offensive than these. Hemingway was offensive for his sentiment but the overwhelming point was that C4 really, effusively & whole-heartedly apologised for his comments in a manner which I have NEVER witnessed, despite seeing far-more offensive material (see ‘Balls of Steel’ currently and ‘The Word’ back in the day plus myriad of others).

    I think that the racial or handicap slurs are seen as by far the most offensive things on our screens today whereas most other things will be put out by producers trying to be ‘edgy’.

  114. Michael Harman said,

    March 28, 2006 at 11:57 am

    There used to be a colour called nigger brown, which I suspect is similar to what is or was called landlord brown in Scotland.

    And there used to be a phrase “Working like a nigger” for someone working extremely hard.

  115. colm said,

    March 28, 2006 at 12:02 pm

    A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald, reporting an imminent crackdown by the ICC on racial abuse by the crowd at cricket Test matches, bemoaned the possibility that we might not be allowed to call the visitors during the upcoming Ashes series “Pommie Bastards”. It finished with a quote straight from the heyday of friendly relations between the two teams: the 1932-33 Bodyline Series:

    Douglas Jardine (English captain): I demand an apology, one of your team mates called me a bastard.
    Bll Woodfall (Australian captain): Which one of you bastards called this bastard a bastard?

  116. Deacon Gusset said,

    March 28, 2006 at 12:18 pm

    Ah, the swearies. A subject very close to my heart. I would agree with the “depends on who’s saying it” theory. As I have grown older, and had children of my own, I certainly find children swearing more offensive than adults doing it (muffled chortling). But in fact, children are probably the most enthusiastic practitioners, I know I was.

    A great deal of research into, and practice of, offensiveness has been carried out by myself and my colleagues at www.belmsford.com. Take a look, you cock-smoking cuntstacks.

  117. Derek said,

    March 28, 2006 at 2:00 pm

    where are you Clive?

    I’m inside Joan Crawfords cunt.

  118. Gordon Ramsays Mum said,

    March 28, 2006 at 2:56 pm

    Now, contrary to what a lot of people presume, neither myself nor Gordon’s father used to use sex words in front of little Gordon.

    Although I did used to make him lick me out during babyjam week whilst his father forced a series of jam tarts up his arsehole.

    Perhaps thats why he swears.

  119. pv said,

    March 28, 2006 at 4:11 pm

    Next thing you know all the monks and nuns who’ve taken vows of silence will be complaing that everyone should respect their hobby by being silent too. Even morse code, if anyone thinks of reviving it, will be silenced. Everything will be branded as offensive. Can’t wait!

  120. AitchJay said,

    March 28, 2006 at 4:40 pm

    Re: RW comment 93
    Homes for the spastic where I grew up in South Australia were called Minda – an Aboriginal word meaning home or shelter, hence Minda Homes; the charity that ran them.
    This just cried out to primary school kids to be used and abused, and actually led to the charity disbanding, selling their properties, and re-forming under a different banner in different locations.
    But no-one understands the connotation now because they don’t exist anymore: there’s a 10 year age bracket of specifically South Aussies who use/get it.

  121. AitchJay said,

    March 28, 2006 at 4:56 pm

    Thankyou Deacon Gusset,

    That’s great, in the best/wrongest way.

  122. BenRoome said,

    March 28, 2006 at 7:28 pm

    Can someone help.

    I’ve never heard the dubbed version of Silence of the Lambs. However, there’s a problem. In the original, Hannibal Lecter doesn’t say the word cunt either. As Clarice is walking past “Multiple Miggs” he says to her: “I can smell your cunt.”

    This leads to the following exchange a short time later between Clarice and Lecter:

    DR. LECTER: Now then. What did Miggs say to you? (She is puzzled) “Multiple Miggs,” in the next cell. He hissed at you. What did he say?
    CLARICE: He said – “I can smell your cunt.”
    DR. LECTER: I see. (SNIFFS) I myself cannot. You use Evyan skin cream, and sometimes you wear L’Air du Temps, but not today. You brought your best bag, though, didn’t you?

    Now, if you replace “cunt” with “scent”. That exchange just becomes, nonsensical. It would have gone something like this:

    DR. LECTER: Now then. What did Miggs say to you? (She is puzzled) “Multiple Miggs,” in the next cell. He hissed at you. What did he say?
    CLARICE: He said – “I can smell your scent.”
    DR. LECTER: I see. (SNIFFS) I myself cannot. Well, when I say that, what I really mean is I can only smell the Evyan skin cream you use and it’s slightly hiding the fact that you sometimes wear L’Air du Temps, but not today. You brought your best bag, though, didn’t you?

    I think that would have worked best if DR LECTER slips into a Cybil Fawlty voice.

  123. superburger said,

    March 28, 2006 at 8:30 pm

    That’s it! I it really was dubbed to have miggs say “scent” and lecter to say the same. It was fairly well dubbed for miggs, but I remember lecter sounding like a dalek when he says ‘scent’

    It does make a certain sense when you replace scent with cunt, especially when he goes on to talk about perfume and skin creme.

    I’ve seen the film on TV since then and the word cunt is used, but for the premiere I am positive it was dubbed. I only remember becuase it was done so badly and sounded so ridiculous.

  124. superburger said,

    March 28, 2006 at 8:34 pm

    i doubt anyone has it on VHS from back in the day, but it really was a tribute to the overdubbers art……

  125. Alan Harrison said,

    March 28, 2006 at 9:26 pm

    “Is this thread going to break the record for posts?”
    Abso-fuckin-lutely!

    There was a DJ on Radio Newcastle (?) when I was a kid called Frankie Whoppett (sp?) who my Dad humorously spoonered as Wankie Froppett, then, horrified to hear us kids (6 and 8) repeating this around the house declared it rude and not to be uttered. Well, for years after the worst name we siblings could stoop to call ourselves was, yes, Froppett.
    Our childish “Appendix 2″ went like this; Smell, Stink, Poo, Bigjob, Froppett.

    Sorry I’m late, the traffic was a cunt.

  126. Alan Harrison said,

    March 28, 2006 at 9:27 pm

    124 – we were 6 and 8, not 6 and . Wot no edit?

  127. Gordon Ramsays Mum said,

    March 28, 2006 at 10:07 pm

    The worst thing I have heard anyone being called is a “piss guzzling nigga witch”.

    Quite why Gordon thought to buy his father “Sister Act 2″ on DVD that Christmas I shall never know.

  128. Michael Harman said,

    March 28, 2006 at 10:17 pm

    Ah, “abso-fuckin-lutely” (Alan Harrison) – quite takes me back to my National Service days around 1956, when that kind of word-splitting was commonplace. I was told, as true, of a sergeant who was the best man at a mate’s wedding, and didn’t manage to restrain himself from a few “fuckings” in this speech; he sought out the bride after and apologized, saying “It makes you feel such a cunt”.

  129. RW said,

    March 28, 2006 at 11:24 pm

    Superburger (#98) – I also “don’t think it is at all nannyish to suggest the people don’t want to listen to a stream of four letter words at tea time”. I think it is nannyish to assume programme makers don’t know what is acceptable without it being legislated. Making lists of sweary words based on perceptions doesn’t do much more than take away the need to think critcally about what you’re saying or how you say it.

    Wikipedia also has a good entry on Mongolism that sums up why its unlikely to turn up on TV any time soon – equating disability with racial characteristics is a little out of favour these days.

  130. RW said,

    March 28, 2006 at 11:33 pm

    Thirds sentence previous post should start “Making rules based on sweary words lists…” D’oh.

  131. Leo F said,

    March 29, 2006 at 12:00 am

    I wonder what happened to all the Overdubbers in the great anti-sanitisation purges of the mid 90’s?. When their skills at vocal impersonation became redundant due to the more permissive zeitgeist I wonder where they went? I swear Rob Brydon is the last of their dying breed.

  132. Leo F said,

    March 29, 2006 at 12:12 am

    BTW: That bit of dialogue about Lecter/Miggs being able to smell Clarice Starling’s mott….that is one skill to possess!

    Since this is ultimately a science forum I wonder what the data is on vaginal fragrance and sexual attraction and also ponder the sheer ability of the male of the species to discern the ‘scent of a woman’ from distance (being incarcerated in a maximum security cell notwithstanding!)

    Makes you wonder what Al Pacino was really captivated by in that blind veteran movie after all.

    Also I think the word ‘cunnilingus ‘ gives cunt a run for its money in the sheer ickyness stakes.

  133. Melissa said,

    March 29, 2006 at 12:46 am

    “I think that would have worked best if DR LECTER slips into a Cybil Fawlty voice.”

    I will never be able to hear that dialogue any other way ever again. That’s it, BenRoome, you’ve ruined the fucking film. :D

  134. FredM said,

    March 29, 2006 at 7:55 am

    I wonder what the Beeb would make of Browning’s poem Pippa Passes which contains the lines:

    Then owls and bats
    Cowls and twats
    Monks and nuns in a cloister’s moods
    Adjourn to the oak-stump pantry

    Browning was under the impression that a twat was an item of nuns clothing. There is an entertaining discussion of the above at the Language Log: itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/001812.html

  135. raygirvan said,

    March 29, 2006 at 8:13 am

    Language Log is always worth a read. The current posting is also relevant to this topic: Why comics avoid the name “Clint”.

  136. Sockatume said,

    March 29, 2006 at 9:32 am

    Robocop’s ITV dub is still the best dub ever.

  137. Andrew Clegg said,

    March 29, 2006 at 9:44 am

    Re. that post on Language Log — there’s a hairdressers in Camden Town called ‘FLICKERS’ which is hilarious forthe same reason.

    It works better in the font they use on their sign than the font I’m typing this in, though…

    Andrew.

  138. Naadir said,

    March 29, 2006 at 10:45 am

    So, Ben, did they draw a line on the document and say “Everything below this line you can use”?

  139. Tamalaine said,

    March 29, 2006 at 10:57 am

    Yeah, I did a double take when I was in a bookshop and saw the spine of the Clint Eastwood biography, Clint, in bold capital letters.
    One nasty word which isn’t on the list but has a lot of power to cause offence is ‘Scum’. Pretty much guaranteed to provoke a reaction.

  140. Ben said,

    March 29, 2006 at 1:24 pm

    (from 3000 posts ago) IIRC, sinister gets its connotations of evilitude from the theatre, where the baddies always enter from the left (or did everyone know that?)

    I’m not sure about “twunt”. If some stupick basker started calling me a twunt, I’d just think they were a tosking pastie.

  141. Smart Aleck said,

    March 29, 2006 at 2:05 pm

    I thought sinister was a heraldic term for the left side. I had a look and some sources state this and this would surely pre-date any theatrical use.

  142. Smart Aleck said,

    March 29, 2006 at 2:12 pm

    However I see that doesn’t explain where the EVIL overtones come from although it could be that story about some Warrior King in the feudal days who made all his swordsman swap their shield arms so they could attack the enemy with sword in other hand and the enemy would not be able to block with their shields. Or is this a precursor of the urban myth?

  143. aspiring pedant said,

    March 29, 2006 at 2:14 pm

    I have to agree with smart Aleck, who was very quickly off the mark, the word is from Latin via old French and these have to predate theatre. Is this a case of bad etymology – it just shows that even the very smartest people can be fooled sometimes.

  144. Delster said,

    March 29, 2006 at 2:40 pm

    nope… it was the latin for left. Also the romans had theatre.

    I think the evil view of the word came from certain gladitorial bouts that were fought with 2 blades, the larger (righthanded) blade being normal and the smaller (lefthanded) blade being poisoned hence sinister becoming the word something bad or evil

  145. aspiring pedant said,

    March 29, 2006 at 3:17 pm

    The concept of left = unlucky/bad must have existed before it was used to denote evil characters in theatre but is it true that all baddies enter from the left (or stage left?) anyway? There’s a problem there anyway IMHO (I feel almost physically sick such is my aversion to internet slang) – either side is on someone’s left. Maybe, at some point in history if you were going to stab someone in the back you would have used a concealed blade in your left hand whilst shaking hands with your right. More likely, it was simply noted that life is a bit more difficult for left handed people.

    Anyway, I like Leo F’s comment wrt cunnilingus but I can’t think of a way to use it as a genuine swear word – any ideas?

  146. superburger said,

    March 29, 2006 at 3:25 pm

    I always thought that left was seen as a Bad Thing becuase Jesus sits at the right hand side of god in heaven. Hence chucking salt over the left hand shoulder as that’s where the devil is.

    But perhaps the left hand side had negatice associations way before then. Perhaps because left handed people are rarer, and being different is usually something that is feared by some people at variuos points in time.

  147. Smart Aleck said,

    March 29, 2006 at 3:26 pm

    Yeah – Roman theatre was usually ‘in the round’ anyway so not many ‘Enter Stage left’ directions there then. I like the Gladiator expalnation though. It’s interesting that the opposite of sinister (left) in heraldry is dexter (right) from which we must get dexterity and ambidextrous – skillful kind of associative words but that sinister has generated the evil/malign association rather than a clumsy or awkward connotation.

  148. aspiring pedant said,

    March 29, 2006 at 3:59 pm

    It appears there is something in the stage left business –

    omega.cohums.ohio-state.edu/mailing_lists/CLA-L/2006/02/0418.php

  149. Robert Carnegie said,

    March 29, 2006 at 4:48 pm

    I heard that berk is an old word for willy, but who knows?

    As for old ladies – as Billy Connolly remarked in his affectionate song “A Four Letter Word”, probably online informally in a few places –

    If those ladies’ pasts were revealed, sure as hell,
    They’ve not only said it, they’ve done it as well

  150. Andrew Clegg said,

    March 29, 2006 at 5:22 pm

    Aspiring Pedant, 145 — I’m sure some cunning linguist can think of a way.

    Andrew.

  151. Smart Aleck said,

    March 29, 2006 at 6:40 pm

    The Romans apparently, believed the left hand to be unlucky and when Caesar was on his way to the Senate during the Ides of March he was handed a warning of the plot to kill him which he placed in his left hand, with other items of parchment and thus it was ignored:

    www.livius.org/bn-bz/brutus/brutus02.html

    If you were a Roman in a Toga your right hand would be raised when greeting someone in the ave (‘e’ with accent) or hail gesture which is what the Nazi’s robbed for the Zieg Hiel. Your left however could be kept inside the folds of your Toga and thus could conceal a weapon.

    This is just my personal take on the connotations of ‘sinister’

  152. Dr Corvus said,

    March 29, 2006 at 7:15 pm

    Smart Aleck:
    Is “ave (‘e’ with an accent)” pronounced ‘ahveh’. Shout at me if I am wrong.
    Dr C

  153. Ben said,

    March 29, 2006 at 7:26 pm

    I knew sinister was latin for left, but I thought that the evil connotations were from the theatre. Looks like I was probably wrong about that (e.g. here, but as the link from aspiring pedant shows, not alone in having heard that association.

    Back on topic, on the subject of what is to replace “cunt” …

    Having won the grand prize at the annual convention of dirty limerick writers for many years, Bob could not attend one year, so sent his friend along to present his limerick for him. That night, Bob phones his friend to see how things have gone.

    “Who came second this year, then?” he asks.

    “You did,” his friend replies.

    “WHAT?” says Bob,
    “that was the filthiest limerick I’ve ever written! how could anyone beat that?
    who was it?”

    “Well,” his friend says,
    “a little white-haired old lady came along this year and took away first prize.
    You wouldn’t believe her limerick, …”

    “Tell me, then,” says Bob.

    “Oh, I couldn’t read it out over the phone, Bob – it’s much too disgusting.”

    “Just ‘la’ the dirty bits”

    “OK, here goes:
    la la la la la la la la,
    la la la la la la la la,
    la la la la la,
    la la la la la la,
    la la la la la la la

    cunt.”

  154. Jimmy said,

    March 29, 2006 at 7:42 pm

    Ben,

    I may be missing something but I am somewhat concerned by your plan to replace cunts I like them just they way they are…………….in Westminster.

  155. stan said,

    March 29, 2006 at 7:58 pm

    wot- Ruth Kelly?

  156. Smart Aleck said,

    March 29, 2006 at 8:20 pm

    Yep I think ave is with an( ‘ ) accent – leaning to the right at 45 degrees one – can’t recall what it is called in French and defo not in Latin – over the e and pronounced ‘ahveh’ but a lot of my knowledge of ancient Rome comes from Asterix comics so I might be way of the mark.

  157. Smart Aleck said,

    March 29, 2006 at 8:24 pm

    This guy uses ‘Ave’ and his site is too good to miss. See you at the Colosseum Christian!

    gladiatorschool.tv/

  158. Adam said,

    March 29, 2006 at 11:06 pm

    Avé ?
    That’s a cute accent. Hold down Alt+Gr when typing the “e”.

    Re: cunnilngus, a mate of mine used to call it “cuntilingus”, though I’m sure doing so meant he never actually got to practice the art.

  159. Adam said,

    March 30, 2006 at 4:31 am

    “Nearly three-quarters of Americans questioned last week – 74 percent – said they encounter profanity in public frequently or occasionally, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll. Two-thirds said they think people swear more than they did 20 years ago. And as for, well, the gold standard of foul words, a healthy 64 percent said they use the F-word – ranging from several times a day (8 percent) to a few times a year (15 percent).”

    msnbc.msn.com/id/12063093/

    Interesting headline there that picks out one particular point. The place where I saw the story quoted used a headline to point out the part about 64% using the word “fuck”.

  160. Andrew Clegg said,

    March 30, 2006 at 10:20 am

    Re. ave, the v is pronounced as a w if my school Latin teachers are to be believed — so ‘ahweh’.

    How they know, given that presumably none of them ever went to ancient Rome, is a question for cunning linguistics to answer.

    Andrew.

  161. Smart Aleck said,

    March 30, 2006 at 10:25 am

    Ahweh Maria!

  162. Smart Aleck said,

    March 30, 2006 at 10:32 am

    I just found this and it mentions the fact that the Nazi’s robbed it.

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ave

    And Andrew, if your pronounciation is correct then perhaps Geordies are the direct descendants of Ancient Romans: Ahweh the Lads!!!!

  163. frantik said,

    March 30, 2006 at 11:16 am

    I got a kick out of reading that big list of nasty words, and then seeing ‘God’ at the bottom :D

  164. aspiring pedant said,

    March 30, 2006 at 12:43 pm

    Smart Aleck,

    Sorry, I feel I’m being a bit of a cunt here and I really shouldn’t say this but you rob a person or a bank, using force or the threat of violence; whereas you steal a car, a bag of money or an idea. Also, the plural of Nazi is Nazis; no apostrophe is necessary.

    I like your idea about Geordies being direct descendants of ancient Rome and I suppose with Hadrian’s Wall nearby they probably are.

  165. Smart Aleck said,

    March 30, 2006 at 1:07 pm

    Aspiring Pedant: I hope you are in the 49 percent of people who consider Piss Off ‘quite mild’ or ‘not swearing’.

  166. aspiring pedant said,

    March 30, 2006 at 2:14 pm

    I’m amongst the 42% – so I’m quite mildly offended, which under the circumstances seems fair enough.

  167. aspiring pedant said,

    March 30, 2006 at 2:18 pm

    Am I the first to notice that the clock hasn’t gone forward on this site yet? Or does it stay on GMT

  168. cosste said,

    March 30, 2006 at 2:33 pm

    The word Cunnus is from the same shape as the word wedge, and refers to the shape of “lady parts”. Why we ended up using “vagina” which means sheath of the sword. It seems almost a shame we don’t call a penis a “gladdus” it would make the joke more obvious.

    Fuck is from old Germanic, fricken meaning “to plough or to strike”, again a very juvenile way to refer to sex, but one that has stuck through a good few centuries.

    This is pretty much the only badscience topic I have ever been able to comment on meaningfully, Let’s hear it for my humanities degree !

  169. Smart Aleck said,

    March 30, 2006 at 2:47 pm

    A Pedant

    I gambled that you wouldn’t be in the 18% of blue-stockings and prudes who found Piss Off ‘very severe’, albeit not quite as offensive as ‘Slag’ and ‘Jew’

  170. Lethe said,

    March 30, 2006 at 5:52 pm

    Going back a few posts – I was taught in school that lefthandedness (ie sinister) was bad because the Roman Army all used their swords in their right hand, and someone wielding a sword in their left hand could cause some damage (tight formations etc). This came from a Roman Army re-enactment group, so they might have been biased ;).

  171. Ben said,

    March 30, 2006 at 6:38 pm

    Going back even more threads – why are the names for women’s parts so much more offensive than those for men? I have a thought – most of the words used for men’s parts also mean something innocuous, so are part of normal speech in other contexts – “willy”, “dong”, “prick”, “cock”, “knob” – but “cunt” has no inoffensive use (for those whom it offends). Similarly for “fuck” and “motherfucker”.

    Perhaps I should call it an hypothesis while wearing a white coat, then it might be true.

    What do you reckon to my “Contexts for Using as a Neutral Term” hypothesis for the less offensive nature of swearwords like “prick”?

  172. Jimmy said,

    March 30, 2006 at 7:49 pm

    That’s an interesting point Ben. Beaver and Pussy are relatively inoffensive and I’d rather be called a twat than a prick, given the choice. So, it’s not really the direct meaning and I think the female/ male thing is just an accident. Is it just that cunt and fuck sound so ugly? Or is that just from association? Perhaps, Cunt & fuck are offensive because that’s the way we use them – a simple way to express extreme anger and frustration without having to think. They’re easy to spell too.

  173. Melissa said,

    March 30, 2006 at 9:12 pm

    Personally I think the yucky “uh” vowel sound in cunt and fuck is just an uglier noise than any component of prick, cock, twat, beaver, shag, etc. But why then do I not find the word butt to be offensive? Hmm… Maybe it’s the added component of the hard “c” next to the “uh.” But then why don’t I dislike the word “monkey”? In fact, I think the word “monkeybutt” is one of the funniest in the language. Am I going to spend way too much time thinking about this? Probably.

  174. Andrew Clegg said,

    March 30, 2006 at 10:03 pm

    cosste: “to plough or to strike”

    There’s a word that’s the same in Dutch and Afrikaans but means ‘thump’ in one of them and ‘fuck’ in the other. Says a lot about someone’s psychology, that.

    I can’t remember what it is though, or which is which, so it’s a bit of a lame factoid.

    Andrew.

  175. Scilly said,

    March 30, 2006 at 10:54 pm

    GASH! Wheres gash? I want to see gash! Personally as offensive as cunt to me, if not more so because it is less used. And why isn’t gay in there, it has as much right as jew and paki I feel.

  176. Andy said,

    March 31, 2006 at 1:27 am

    Note to users of Internet explorer:
    You may be wondering how people are giving comparisons with the latest list and previous ranks. Internet explorer seems to cut off the last column, probably due to a css rendering bug.
    To see the full table either use firefox (www.getfirefox.com) or right click on the table and select save image as…

  177. Ben said,

    March 31, 2006 at 6:35 am

    Or follow the link at the top to the full blurb.

  178. conejo said,

    March 31, 2006 at 7:42 am

    “Fuck” and its variants are usable as noun, verb, adjective and adverb, which is what I call multitasking. I remember seeing this letter from the Guardian, Nov 23 2002 (search for “fucking fuckers” on the Grauniad site):

    “While working on the production line at Universal Asbestos some 40 years ago, a colleague criticised my performance by exclaiming to all: “The fucking fucker’s fucking fucked the fucker up!” ….”

  179. Delster said,

    March 31, 2006 at 8:13 am

    Lethe,

    your right about the roman legions being right handed… at least the common rankers. This was so you had a regular sword/shield/sword/shiels line up. If you had a lefty in there it would go shield/sword/shield/shield/sword/sword . this would provide a gap (where the 2 shields meet) that an enemy could use to disrupt the formation. The close formation is why the romans were so good.

    just as another piece of useless info on topic.

    The expression “fuck you” with the associated hand gesture comes from the day’s of the english longbowman. The french, if they captured one, would cut off the first 2 fingers of their release hand (normaly the right) so it started out as “pluck yew” with the first 2 fingers of the right hand displayed as a gesture of defiance from the longbowmen

  180. cosste said,

    March 31, 2006 at 10:03 am

    Sorry Delster, that’s a myth about pluck yew/fuck you. Snopes has a good explanation www.snopes.com/language/apocryph/pluckyew.htm (

    The F-Word is a really good book on the history of this wonderfully versatile word. There is also Swearing: Social History of Foul Language, Oaths and Profanity in English which looks why some words are so much more taboo than others, such as cunt. (First recorded use is English was groppecuntelane which was where the prostitues hung out in the 13th century, it’s pretty much always been a “base” word)

  181. Alan Harrison said,

    March 31, 2006 at 12:15 pm

    with respect to Delster, that “pluck yew” story is a load of old toss.
    We never said “Fuck you” until it was imported from the Yanks recently. We say “Fuck Off”. The displaying of the two fingers may have some basis in fact but “pluck yew” is bollocks.

  182. outeast said,

    March 31, 2006 at 12:49 pm

    I remember teaching a grammar class using a textbook with a section on swearing which illustrated the flexibility of the word fuck with the sample sentence ‘what are you fucking doing fucking in my fucking bed, you fuck.’ This proved quite useful in teaching basic sentence structure.

    It also came close to getting me sacked, of course.

  183. Smart Aleck said,

    March 31, 2006 at 1:11 pm

    The Jamaican term ‘blaad claat’ can really only be displayed in patois because if you anglicize it you get ‘blood clot’, which for some time I made the mistake of believing was West Indian’s way of wishing a thrombosis on you – to your obvious physical detriment.

    A Jamaican mate actually laughed and told me that it actually meant ‘blood cloth’, so essentially is the equivalent of calling someone a soiled tampon. And this would not be the kind of ‘tampon’ found down the local chemists either. It would be a piece of old rag used to stem menstrural blood, and so if you are called a ‘blaad claat’ you can see that it might give cunt a run for its money.

  184. Delster said,

    March 31, 2006 at 1:25 pm

    well i’ve just read the snopes article and it’s definatly incorrect on at least one thing. It states that

    “Last but certainly not least, wouldn’t these insolent archers have been bragging about plucking the bow’s string, and not the wood of the bow itself? ”

    Archery was known as plucking or drawing the yew as thats what the best bows were (and still are) made of. So wrong on that count.

    Also it talks about cutting off the middle finger only.

    To draw a bow you need both of the first 2 fingers on the hand (for a powerful bow anyway). If you were to capture a bowman (who they are right is no good for ransom) and remove both the fingers then they would NOT be able to fight with swords, battleaxes etc as stated in the article.

    I’ve done both archery and re-enactnment using a variety of weapons and you can’t wield more than a dagger (and poorly at that) without the first two fingers…. to demonstrate… go home… pick up rolling pin in last 2 fingers and try waving it around…. pick up broken crockery and put rolling pin back in draw…. point proved.

    So cut the fingers off and release them and you’ve deprived the enemy of a highly trained bowman and they won’t be able to use another weapon.

    As for going hand to hand…. the bowman would normally not be armed with more than a long dagger or short sword for this as anything bigger would get in the way. If you have a knight in plate armour then once you’ve pulled him off his horse the best way to dispatch him is a short blade in throat, armpit or groin.

    As for the moral code they talked about that was mainly applied to the noble ranks as they were the ones worth ransom.

  185. outeast said,

    March 31, 2006 at 2:10 pm

    Delster, it’s possible you’re misunderstanding the point of the Snopes article:

    The most important point is that regardless of how effective or otherwise cutting off a couple of fingers might or might not have been there is no evidence to suggest it ever happened. Certainly I’ve not managed to find a single contemporary source for this, though maybe you know one. That in itself is strongly indicative that the archery origin is hokum.

    As a secondary point, the Snopes article points out that there would be no reason not simply to kill any archer outright – capture would serve no purpose.

    The ‘pluck yew’ bit itself is clearly nonsense – the work ‘fuck’ has a far older heritage all of its own, while ‘fuck you’ is of far more recent origin. I’ve no idea if your claim that archery was formerly called ‘plucking or drawing the yew’ is true, but I’m dubious – the only references to the phrase I can find are on websites recounting this myth, and I’ve never heard the phrase before. I suspect a modern confection.

  186. AitchJay said,

    March 31, 2006 at 5:00 pm

    “what are you fucking doing fucking in my fucking bed, you fuck.’”
    That just goes to show how this word should enshrined above all others.
    That covers every use available.

  187. Bozo Clown said,

    March 31, 2006 at 8:07 pm

    I am always amazed at how acceptable “sodding” is … doesn’t it mean “engaged in the act of sodomy”? Which should make it “worse” than “fucking” in most people’s minds.

  188. Commentater said,

    March 31, 2006 at 9:32 pm

    Re: Blood Claat, Blood Clot, Blood Cloth
    In the days of my youth (mid-70’s) we commonly referred to nasty teachers or snotty peers as “rags” and people in the act of complaining as “ragging.” Rag having the very meaning the poster describes. I used to think it was odd that such a disgusting term was used pretty casually by just about everyone I knew, including the occassional “hip” teacher. The word seems to have all but disappeared in today’s lexicon — unless I am hopelessly out of step (always a possibility).

  189. Smart Aleck said,

    March 31, 2006 at 9:35 pm

    Well I was told ‘ Fuck off Spunkrag!!!! ‘ once and it was very shocking.

  190. Ben said,

    March 31, 2006 at 10:15 pm

    Chambers says that “to rag” in the “to rate; to banter” &c. is perh. from bullyrag, or perh. from rag as in “red rag” (to a bull presumably, not the kind you mention).

    So I suspect that “ragging” is innocent enough.

  191. Ben said,

    March 31, 2006 at 10:16 pm

    “The word seems to have all but disappeared in today’s lexicon”

    Don’t they still have rag week and rag mags?

  192. Adam said,

    April 1, 2006 at 4:57 am

    Wher does “oily rag” fit this picture?

  193. Septic said,

    April 1, 2006 at 6:42 pm

    Way early in the posts, someone related how he knew from personal experience how some children really get carried away with profanity. I know I did. And as for my own kids:

    Several years ago, I took my wife and four kids on a Christmastime vacation to Arizona. Fireworks are legal there, and our ten-year-old boy, little Mr Pyromaniac, managed to acquire some small items along with a Bic lighter.

    We were someplace out in the desert when I heard some laughing from the back seat. Unbeknowst to us up front, the ten-year-old was holding a smoke bomb in one hand with the lighter lit in the other. His older sister, one to always be stirring the pot, bumped the elbow with the hand holding the lighter, bringing it into contact with the fuse of the smoke bomb.

    We adults became aware of it when the ten-year-old yelled, “AAAGHHH! Somebody open the fuckin’ door!”

    I’ll never know where he picked that up. . .

  194. Melissa said,

    April 1, 2006 at 11:41 pm

    Here’s the result of my pondering of stressed-“uh” curses. To my ear, “motherfucking pussbucket cunt-sucker” is about the worst thing I could think to call someone.

    Re: children getting carried away with cursing, my favorite curse phrase while growing up was “holy fucking shit.” It was, in fact, overkill in most situations in which I used it.

  195. Septic said,

    April 2, 2006 at 1:39 am

    The absolute worst curse I ever thought of:
    “He’s nothing more than the blow-by of a buggery!”
    That doesn’t seem to have made the top twenty.
    But, let’s not start a competition; this needs to remain a serious discussion!

  196. Ian said,

    April 2, 2006 at 6:12 pm

    The word cunt was featured on the recent BBC programme Balderdash & Piffle, which aimed to trace the origins and earliest use of various words. The journalist Germaine Greer said it was her favourite word and loved the fact it empowered women, by being a word that was both strong and reactionary.

    I personally find it a supercharged word but would feel uneasy using it.

  197. Somebody said,

    April 3, 2006 at 4:27 am

    I seem to swear alot, using crap at work, shit at home and fuck when I’m out with my friends. I used to get in trouble at school for saying crap and piss off.

  198. Jim said,

    April 3, 2006 at 10:26 am

    I am at a complete loss to understand the rankings.

    Cunt is almost universally used to denote an unpleasant (invariably male) person and not ‘the female pudenda’ as my dictionary would have me believe.

    If motherfucker is at number 2, where in the rankings is oedipal?

    Fuck is now no stronger than drat, while fucking means:

    a) a reinforcement to the definite article so that the following noun has the extended meaning of ‘the item at the current focus of my attention and concerns’, as in:

    Where are my fucking trousers?

    b) ‘annoying’ as in:

    Shut that fucking row off.

    After almost 600 glorious years, it now has next to nothing to do with copulation. Presumably it was shagged out.

  199. Rachel said,

    April 3, 2006 at 11:58 am

    When I worked for a dotcom in 2000 one of my favourite tasks was having a yearly meeting where we decided which words were banned from the online forums (we had filters) and it was an absolute revelation for me – I had no idea what frottaging was!

    For each word, I had to sit with the board and say the word, describe what it meant and then press for whether or not it should be allowed!

    So I say, come on guys, get creative, help people like me be entertained by inventing new oscenities. My particular favourite, coined by my mum to describe poor drivers who cut her up is ‘shitbum’!

  200. Jonman said,

    April 3, 2006 at 12:18 pm

    Swearing’s old hat now. We need a paradigm shift in profanity to keep the scene fresh.

    Personally, I make up longified profranities by mixing classic swearwords with everyday innocuous words.

    Next time someone pisses you off, call them a fuckwallet, and see what their response is. Or a Cockbox. Or a Shitmonger.

    And fuck is much overrated. Last time I stubbed my toe, the flat resounded to my shouts of ‘Arsebuckets!’

  201. stever said,

    April 3, 2006 at 1:50 pm

    **SWEARING NEWS**

    **STOP PRESS**

    The big chill of the censor

    Americans have been robbed of the single most essential word in political protest

    Jeff Jarvis
    Monday April 3, 2006
    The Guardian

    The US Federal Communications Commission just declared that shit and all its variants, including bullshit, are not merely indecent – which is where the law stood after the supreme court washed its seven dirty words out of comic George Carlin’s mouth in 1978 – but are now profane if broadcast. That is a profound distinction. Legally, a profane word is “certain of those personally reviling epithets naturally tending to provoke violent resentment or denoting language so grossly offensive to members of the public who actually hear it as to amount to a nuisance”. Nuisance, in this case, is not a dog barking but a word the community cannot tolerate. The FCC reserves “that distinction for the most offensive words in the English language”.

    www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,1745326,00.html

  202. Stan Kelly-Bootle said,

    April 3, 2006 at 6:57 pm

    Post 94 regarding the cheesy flavour of “smega” sortof leaves a nasty taste in my mouth.
    Also reminds me of the pleasant French slang “Defromager” — to clean a cock by means of fellation.

  203. Melissa said,

    April 3, 2006 at 11:30 pm

    “The US Federal Communications Commission just declared that shit and all its variants, including bullshit, are not merely indecent – which is where the law stood after the supreme court washed its seven dirty words out of comic George Carlin’s mouth in 1978 – but are now profane if broadcast.”

    I hate the Federal Communications Cunts and their bullshit.

    (There. Now I am sure to be on a CIA watch list.)

  204. Hatter said,

    April 4, 2006 at 3:08 pm

    My girlfriend does not generally swear much. That is except when she is playing games on our Gamecube, then the profanities come flying out when things go wrong. It is absolutely hilarious.

  205. Alan Harrison said,

    April 4, 2006 at 8:12 pm

    202 “I had no idea what frottaging was”
    You’re clearly not a japanese commuter, it’s the national sport…..
    www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1545039/posts

  206. pv said,

    April 5, 2006 at 6:44 pm

    “There. Now I am sure to be on a CIA watch list”

    Melissa, don’t you mean the CIA’s hit list (aka the CIA shit list)

  207. pv said,

    April 5, 2006 at 6:46 pm

    “The FCC reserves “that distinction for the most offensive words in the English language”.”

    “Offensive” to whom? And in which version of the English language?

  208. eigenlambda said,

    April 5, 2006 at 10:33 pm

    “twat” and “cunt” are synonyms like “good” and “awesome”, which is to say, differing only in degree. Perhaps “arsehole” should go somewhere on that list, though, because as a swear, “twat”, “cunt”, and “arsehole” are all nouns used to refer to people disparagingly. “piss off” means about the same thing as “fuck off” or “sod off”, it is not related in meaning to “pissed off”.

  209. Ian said,

    April 6, 2006 at 3:28 pm

    Pedantica,

    Douglas Adams and John Lloyd, in their book “The Meaning Of Liffe”, propose using “Gastard”, describes as:

    “Useful specially new-coined word for an illegitimate child (in order to distinguish it from someone who cuts you up on the motorway, etc”.

    I can’t wait until “smeg” and “smegging” find their way onto that list, seeing as they originated on the BBC !

  210. Perplexed said,

    April 6, 2006 at 3:29 pm

    Maybe I’ve missed something but, if ‘berk’ is really rhyming slang derived from ‘Berkeley Hunt’, why isn’t it ‘bark’?

  211. Ian said,

    April 6, 2006 at 3:30 pm

    Rachel, did you ever have to describe “dirty sanchez” ?

  212. Ian said,

    April 6, 2006 at 3:32 pm

    “Maybe I’ve missed something but, if ‘berk’ is really rhyming slang derived from ‘Berkeley Hunt’, why isn’t it ‘bark’? ”

    Imagine it being spoke in an East London accent, mate.

  213. Melissa said,

    April 6, 2006 at 4:34 pm

    Ok, I’m totally not getting it. I can guess what the “Hunt” part of “Berkeley Hunt” is, but what’s the “Berkeley” supposed to be?

  214. Andrew said,

    April 6, 2006 at 7:06 pm

    Crikey, who’s the fecker that thought this up … or feckers more like. Fecking Hilarious.

  215. sjhoward.co.uk » You’re offended? Oh, bollocks! said,

    April 6, 2006 at 7:37 pm

    […] Badscience is in possession of the BBC’s ranking of which swearwords are most offensive, and which least offensive, out of the 28 words it defines as swearwords. It also has a comparative ranking from 1998. The only change to the top five is that ‘nigger’ is now much more offensive. […]

  216. sjhoward said,

    April 6, 2006 at 7:47 pm

    This is probably very immature, but I love my own site’s computer-read podcast about this list: www.talkr.com/app/fetch.app?feed_id=3843&perma_link=http://www.sjhoward.co.uk/archive/2006/04/06/youre-offended-oh-bollocks

    Computers saying naughty words. Is there anything more satisfying?

  217. olly said,

    April 6, 2006 at 9:53 pm

    when i played rugby at school our lineout calls were fuck-shit-rape: any word starting with f,u,c or k would be thrown to no.2, any word starting with s,h,i or t would go to no. 4 and likewise r,a,p or e to no. 6. big AND clever. this was condoned by the coach – we were 14.

  218. pv said,

    April 6, 2006 at 10:25 pm

    Melissa, it’s cockney rhyming slang. Berkley Hunt rhymes with what you think it does. It’s shortened to “berk” which rhymes with nothing, and that’s the point. Cockney rhyming slang was originally a way of communicating between the rather less savoury types in the East End of London, so as not to be understood by the police. For example:
    Apples and pears = stairs, which is shortened just to “apples”.
    China plate = mate, which is shortened to “china”.
    Frog and toad = road
    Berkley hunt = cunt…

  219. TP said,

    April 7, 2006 at 9:17 am

    Delete “SUBSCRIBE europsych” from above. Insert “television station”. Must have hit Control-V instead of TV.

  220. Pro-reason.info » We need to speak the same language said,

    April 8, 2006 at 7:13 pm

    […] *3 — Furthermore, 46% say that ‘Jew’ should never be broadcast, and 20% consider it ‘very severe’ amongst swearwords. The BBC report is available as a PDF download. There is discussion of it on the Badscience blog. We have also extracted three graphs from the report for easy perusal: Swearwords by broadcast time, Swearwords by severity, Swearwords ranked by severity.   […]

  221. AitchJay said,

    April 9, 2006 at 1:00 am

    sjhoward

    You’re right:
    that is funny, immature and very satisfying!

  222. steve_cov said,

    April 9, 2006 at 10:35 am

    Apparently football fans in Cardiff are hopelessly offended by the expression “Fuck off”: news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/4873266.stm

    I doubt it is ever to be heard on their terraces, although I found this quite funny.

  223. pv said,

    April 17, 2006 at 10:05 pm

    Just got back from a weekend in Luzern (Switzerland) and thought everyone would like to know that our route took us past road signs for the delightfully sounding towns of Cunty and Berken. I can’t imagine what the BBC would do if there was ever an Earth shattering event to be reported from Cunty. :)

  224. Roll Over, Play Dead » Why I’m Useless said,

    April 25, 2006 at 11:59 pm

    […] BBC does a study that ranks swear words.  Also check out an interesting blog entry on the words.  If you’re really interested, view the whole study in a PDF […]

  225. TRiG said,

    May 9, 2006 at 4:48 pm

    “I’m glad to see there are no foul words in your dictionary, Doctor Johnson.”

    “So you’ve been looking for them, madam?”

  226. sciencefan said,

    May 20, 2006 at 8:15 pm

    To follow pv’s piece on the Swiss town of Cunty, I recently saw an Austrian leaflet, conveniently bi-lingual, recommending “holidays in sun-blessed Wank” .
    Presumably the BBC would have no trouble with that one though – it doesn’t figure in the rankings.

    One question occurs to me on this thread: has it the highest level of interest in the whole of the BadScience site? If so, is this a ‘science’ thing – perhaps because scientists in general are said to be less articulate than, say (plucking another category at random) Humanities graduates? Just a thought! :-)

  227. Ex Cathedra » Blog Archive » Weekend Woot said,

    September 23, 2006 at 12:15 am

    […] Want a job on the Beeb? Here’s the cuss words you can’t say. […]

  228. Jeweettoch » Cunt! said,

    July 29, 2007 at 9:03 pm

    […] Ik ben blij dat CUNT bovenaan staat, want dat gebruik ik het meest ^_^… -> Lijst van scheldwoorden gesorteerd op ‘ergheid’ […]

  229. HannarCookie said,

    July 30, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    How the fuck is JEW a swearword?!

  230. links for 2007-07-31 « Simply… A User said,

    July 31, 2007 at 1:45 am

    […] Bad Science » Sweary Mary (tags: article bad bbc blog comedy data england english interesting uk funny humor linguistics language swearing **) […]

  231. Cartoons Fans Lounge said,

    July 31, 2007 at 2:37 am

    […] X Men 4 A chart of the severity of different swear words. pictures of X Men evolutionread more | digg story RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI Cartoons Fans Lounge […]

  232. Jewschool » Blog Archive » Mishegaas said,

    August 1, 2007 at 4:28 am

    […] Roughly half of all Brits surveyed believe that “Jew” is a swear word. […]

  233. bonkos.com » Blog Archive » Swear Words ranked by offensiveness said,

    August 4, 2007 at 12:45 am

    […] found at Bad Science […]

  234. i-eclectica.org » Blog Archive » Swear words said,

    August 21, 2007 at 11:44 am

    […] words like ’shit’ scrambled. Well, while we were chatting, Harry googled and found on Bad Science what seems to be an official document on what the BBC deems to be swear words. Given that words […]

  235. Photo Blog » Blog Archive » telegraph.co.uk said,

    March 16, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    […] telegraph.co.uk photo www.badscience.net/ […]

  236. Clay said,

    June 21, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    As a non-theist I find it wonderful that “God” and “Jesus Christ” are on the foul language list.

    Tops on the swearword list is still the old George Carlin “7 words you can’t say on television”.

  237. Swear words - ranked list of rudeness said,

    November 22, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    […] source:badscience […]

  238. Hot Ebay Store » Blog Archive » Bad Science » Sweary Mary said,

    December 8, 2008 at 10:28 am

    […] Ben Goldacre wrote an interesting post today onBad Science » Sweary MaryHere’s a quick excerptIn that case it would be just as acceptable to have another racist on talking about thieving Pakis, or thieving Jews. Just because Wayne has got a smart suit and some hip glasses doesn’t make his racist outburst more acceptable. … […]

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  242. buyfbfans said,

    November 15, 2011 at 7:14 am

    The magazine was being sold in W H Smith for the first time ever during this period, and with their typical schoolboy sense of humour, the editors had placed this cartoon on the cover deliberately to cause offence. Mary’s ultimate aim was to say ‘cunt’ on the cover – this was blocked out. Eventually, she came up with the word ‘fitbin’, which, the readers were told, was an incredibly rude word. As it wasn’t, of course, the page was uncensored. Afterwards she still made attempts to swear on various covers and in various strips, until she finally got the chance to swear on the cover of Issue 99. Sadly, her wish was broken as she lost her voice, and the other characters taunted her as a result.
    Fitbin is still occasionally heard as a swearword, although Sweary mary, by contrast, having largely fulfilled her function, has almost completely disappeared from the pages of Viz.

  243. Frak this! Galactica’s linguistic legacy. | The Tinuum said,

    June 19, 2013 at 5:53 am

    […] *** Btw, for a laugh, you should look at this list of 4-letter words. […]