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. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.)

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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)

  7. 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?

  8. 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”.

  9. 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 !

  10. 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’?

  11. Ian said,

    April 6, 2006 at 3:30 pm

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

  12. 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.

  13. 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?

  14. Andrew said,

    April 6, 2006 at 7:06 pm

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

  15. 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. […]

  16. 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?

  17. 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.

  18. 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…

  19. 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.

  20. 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.   […]

  21. AitchJay said,

    April 9, 2006 at 1:00 am

    sjhoward

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

  22. 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.

  23. 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. :)

  24. 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 […]

  25. 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?”

  26. 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! :-)

  27. 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. […]

  28. 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’ […]

  29. HannarCookie said,

    July 30, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    How the fuck is JEW a swearword?!

  30. 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 **) […]

  31. 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 […]

  32. 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. […]

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

    August 4, 2007 at 12:45 am

    […] found at Bad Science […]

  34. 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 […]

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

    March 16, 2008 at 3:13 pm

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

  36. 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”.

  37. Swear words - ranked list of rudeness said,

    November 22, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    […] source:badscience […]

  38. 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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  42. 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.

  43. 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. […]