back to article Blighty's telly, radio watchdog Ofcom does a swear

UK comms regulator Ofcom has released in-depth research into the British public’s attitudes to fucking swearing. Researchers found that context is bloody everything and there is still strong support for the 9pm watershed, with less tolerance for anything but mildly offensive language and gestures before that time. Tone and …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Steven Fry on swearing

    Pim Hole!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Steven Fry on swearing

      Don't be a clothprunker.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some of the findings don't seem to relate to what I observer people regard as offensive. To be honest the whole subject of what's offensive is problematic and seems to have become more so lately.

    I was told off the other day for a word I used and I'm afraid I didn't react well. I asked who the person thought they were to tell me what I may or may not say. For me the word wasn't offensive and nor had that been my intention and I'd got fed up with a small group of people deciding what's OK and what isn't. My life is quite busy enough without having to constantly try and keep abreast of the latest thinking on what's offensive and what's not.

    I think we need to have more acceptance of what is our taste and what is others before we start taking offence. A joke in poor taste is not the same as someone being deliberately offensive.

    Some people these days love to look back at 70s comedies with mock shock at this "ism" or that, instead of seeing that for the most part the humour is harmless and just not to their current taste.

    In general the law should then not get involved in questions of taste.

    I also wish we could get away from this ridiculously childish thinking that anyone who doesn't agree with you is a "hater". It stifles discussion and stops people thinking. If those who don't agree with you are "haters" then you don't need to think about what you're doing or what you've said, you never need to question yourself.

    Look at the charges of anti-Semitism. A lot of this seems to me to be attempts to stifle criticism of the state of Israel....

    I suppose what I'm saying is that we need to move back towards freedom of expression and, well, just be a bit kinder to one another.

    Sorry for the ramble, I just feel frustrated and I'm not prepared to revise my standards of speech on a weekly basis!

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Those Ned Flanders and tutting poor loves should not get within earshot of any group of schoolkids walking home from school. You know, those kids that the watershed is supposed to protect could out-MF Eddie Murphy at his peak.

    2. Spacedinvader

      Well, what was the word? Curious minds and all that :)

    3. Wilseus

      "Look at the charges of anti-Semitism. A lot of this seems to me to be attempts to stifle criticism of the state of Israel"

      A lot of it might be, but certainly not all of it.

      Regardless, I agree with your post in general.

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    The watershed [..] still has wide support among those surveyed

    An interesting bit of information, given that a fair proportion of parents I know take absolutely no care to put their children to bed before that time.

    So basically, most people agree that swearing on the telly is bad before a given time, then let their kids up late enough so that they can hear it anyway.


    1. Jason 24

      Re: The watershed [..] still has wide support among those surveyed

      There was a good confession on Simon Mayo earlier this week where a lady took her 13 old kid to a comedy show with Sara Pascoe. The lady had told herself that she lets her kids stay up until after 9 anyway to watch TV, so what harm could a comedy show have?

      I think she ended up with quite a shock when she realised just how much the TV is filtered, even after 9pm.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: The watershed [..] still has wide support among those surveyed

        I think she ended up with quite a shock when she realised just how much the TV is filtered, even after 9pm.

        Then she would be in for seriously deep shock if she heard how kids in school talk. Sara Pascoe would probably blush.

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: The watershed [..] still has wide support among those surveyed

      My brother tries not to swear in front of his daughter, with only partial success. So you can imagine how embarrassed he and his wife were, when they went to her first parents evening and the teacher told them that she had "had to tell $sprog off for her language on one occasion".

      Nervously they asked what word she had used, the teacher said that after being asked to read a book she replied "oh not this damned book again!".

      When they told my mum, she thought this was hilarious, until I pointed out that my brother and his wife would almost never say 'damn' For them it's a good healthy 'fuck' at least. Instead, my niece must have learnt such teacher-bothering language from my mum (an ex-teacher herself). Mum thought that was even funnier.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The watershed [..] still has wide support among those surveyed

        "oh not this damned book again!"

        If she had said "This book should suffer damnation" - she would have had the Christian bible on her side.

        IIRC "swearing" was originally made a legal offence because anti-establishment secret societies used common oaths of swearing on the Bible. So using a Biblical oath to seal your loyalty was translated to merely using the oath as a term of speech. As the context was not swearing loyalty to a establishment institution then it was made illegal.

        Many of the common swear words are mangled forms of what were originally regarded as blasphemies. In 1965 the late Richard Dimbleby blotted his copybook by uttering an exasperated "Jesus wept" into a live microphone while commentating on some state occasion.

  4. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Religious insults were considered generally unacceptable but many were not recognised by large numbers of those questioned.

    The religion, or the insult?

  5. Kevin Johnston

    Swear words?

    I have seen a few people on TV demonstrate to great comedic effect how the actual words you are using mean nothing compared to how you deliver them. It is possible to use only words of the mildest nature yet still utter a phrase which leaves no-one in doubt as to what was meant.

    I try not to use swear words and whilst younger developed the art of being so over-polite I could draw blood, how could anyone complain or legislate about that? Doesn't actually excuse it or make it right so I reserve it for cold-callers now.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Swear words?

      My old mum says "Oh bugger, bugger, bugger" when she drops a pan.

      1. 's water music

        Re: dropping a pan

        This feels like it should mean something in Urban Dictionary but doesn't

    2. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: Swear words?

      the actual words you are using mean nothing compared to how you deliver them

      I saw Miles Jupp doing stand-up the other day. He clearly felt, from observing his peers, the need to say "fucking" at, admittedly long, intervals to demonstrate his edginess. Given that his entire shtick is based on his lack of edginess it just sounded fucking incongruous.

      I would now like to wash my mouth out and apologise to everyone who brought me up - so that's sorry to all of you from the BBC Home Service. You know, on reflection, I'm not sure someone called "Uncle Mac" would get onto the radio these days.

  6. JimmyPage

    To reference our Greatest Living Englishman (again)

    Stephen Fry on offence.

    “It's now very common to hear people say, 'I'm rather offended by that.' As if that gives them certain rights. It's actually nothing more... than a whine. 'I find that offensive.' It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. 'I am offended by that.' Well, so fucking what."

  7. Anonymous Coward


    See title...

    1. Chronos

      Re: Smeg...

      Which is, if you know the etymology of the Dwarfer's favourite, quite disgusting. It always makes me laugh when I see a Smeg 'fridge. I'm always tempted to append an "MA" to it, just as I itch to put an A and E either side of some pillock's Ford Focus RS.

      1. The Jon

        Re: Smeg...

        I have a Siemens refrigerator, and every now and again the magnets upon the door are quietly rearranged to cover the I and the second S for a childish giggle.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Ickworth Road in Sleaford has a clean patch at one end of the sign in the shape of a D.

  8. Groaning Ninny

    I shout pus and buttocks in the office. Works for me.

    1. dajames Silver badge

      I shout pus and buttocks in the office. Works for me.

      "Office"? Is that a euphemism?

  9. Stevie


    Well this Ex-pat doesn't believe any of the British comedy shows were improved by allowing the use of formerly forbidden worlds like "shit" or "fuck" into the scripts. The Young Ones was side splitting often because of the tortured way the cast had to avoid using such language, same with Black Adder or AbFab (to pick three out of the air).

    On this side of the pond both Arrested Development and Reno 911 suffer when the bleeps are removed and the underlying words allowed.

    The extended AD bleeped scene with Buster Bluth cursing out his mother is hysterically funny, especially given the expressions on the other cast members' faces, but absent the bleeps all you have is language you hear every day when the photocopier breaks down and that ain't funny, it's tedious.

    I don't know why Reno 911 is funnier with the bleeps, it just is. I have DVDs of shows I loved when broadcast, but they simply aren't as funny when the cursing is uncensored as they are in the disc versions.

    However, I don't have skin in this particular game so I don't really get a say.

    1. JimmyPage

      Re: Bah!

      "The Thick Of It" and "Veep!" are sublime exercises in the perfection of swearing ...

    2. WraithCadmus

      Re: Bah!

      This also turned up in the game Brütal Legend, if memory serves you could censor the swearing and the prompt acknowledged you might be doing this to spare your ears or because censorship is funnier sometimes.

      See also: C*nt von C*nt

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bah!

        Brutal Legend's censorship options are explicitly:

        I want to hear every nasty word!

        It's funnier if you bleep it out.

        Editing to add the gore options, which are:

        Only when it's really awesome!

        No gore, please.

    3. Number6

      Re: Bah!

      I tend to agree, use of swear words in sketches rarely improves them. I think people laugh out of embarrassment. Look at comedians such as Les Dawson, capable of being offensively funny without actually saying anything, just leading the audience along and letting them complete it in their own minds.

      Then there was the Two Ronnies: "Your nuts, milord, your sweet, milady" and all of that, leaving the audience to insert apostrophes where appropriate.

    4. P. Lee

      Re: Bah!

      >Well this Ex-pat doesn't believe any of the British comedy shows were improved by allowing the use of formerly forbidden worlds like "shit" or "fuck" into the scripts.

      I wish I could upvote this more.

      In 90% of cases swearing adds nothing of semantic value - the words are meaningless in their used context which means the user is simply incoherent and unable to express themselves.

      In nearly all other cases where the semantics are accurate, the use of crude language is designed to be offensive. Fry's assertion that "I'm offended by that" has no meaning is incorrect. It's a polite way of saying, "Your deliberate offensiveness is an indication of what an obnoxious person you are. I disapprove of such behaviour and would prefer it to be absent." That's a perfectly valid view which deserves to be taken into account. As far as media goes, you can turn it off, but it is equally valid to express your opinion that "I don't think these incoherent / obnoxious expressions are beneficial to society and I would prefer them to not to be promoted / funded." Perhaps like so many in the modern media, he finds disapproval offensive.

      There is a tiny percentage of use-cases where the semantics are accurate and the user is illiterate enough to be unable to express themselves otherwise. That's not funny either.

      So, illiterate, incoherent or obnoxious - take your pick of reasons, but none of it is a cause for pride. I saw Ricky Gervais' "Politics" show on TV recently. His "Carling" product placement should have been a warning - you'll enjoy this more if you've dulled your reasoning - even the presenter face doing this sober. Not very clever, not very funny and yes, the laughter seemed to be mostly to hide the embarrassment over what was happening on stage. I get that humour is varied, but this was just sad.

  10. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. Number6

    I just sent the link to my teenage son and recommended he read it thoroughly. That should put him off ever clicking on the link.

  12. Anonymous Coward
  13. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  14. Jason Bloomberg


    I was surprised at which words people were not familiar with. I don't know if that says more about me than it does about them.

    I can, and often do, go full tilt with the swearing. I suppose a lot depends on what one is regularly exposed to as to what shocks or just sails under the bridge. I must say I do dislike it on TV and in films when it's contrived. In context it's fine and I have the full collection of Derek and Clive. Besides, what else is one meant to use but a yard long string of profanity and expletives when one steps on a nail or hits oneself with a hammer?

    While I am okay with swearing, can take it or leave it, I am less happy about derogatory terms.

  15. Doctor_Wibble

    Something I read in the Oldie...

    Don't get excited, it was second-hand, Mum subscribes to it. Or that might be more embarrassing. Whatever.

    "I remember a fellow news correspondent agreeing with his editor about the number of swear words he could use in a radio piece - one b*stard, two f*cks and no c*nts."

    And obviously there's that South Park episode.

  16. frobnicate

    So "Fenian" is an insult now?

    Bloody English imperialists will do anything to keep noble people of Ireland enslaved.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: So "Fenian" is an insult now?

      So "Fenian" is an insult now?

      Only when it's used by a Wee Free Orange bastard about some mingin Taig.

      (A/C, so please assume the joke icon)

  17. Mark White

    I'm sorry, I haven't a clue

    I always find the self censorship rounds amusing, the act of censoring turns even the most innocent of words/phrases into whatever the dirty minds of the public listening can come up with.

  18. Geoff Johnson

    It all changes at time goes by.

    I remember Ade Edmundson getting in trouble for saying fart on Wogan. A few years (ok, maybe decades) later and Saturday morning kids telly were doing a sketch called fart attack.

    Give it a few decades more and kids TV will be saying fuck, while some currently innocent words will be banned instead.

  19. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    Soooo pretty much....

    About every song from Monty Python from the 'Penis song' to 'Sit on my face' etc etc?

  20. Ketlan


    What the hell is an 'Iberian slap' - and do I really want to know?

    1. Ketlan

      Re: What?

      Forget it, it's boring.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What?

      An Iberian Slap is what you do to Spanish Fly

    3. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: What?

      What the hell is an 'Iberian slap'

      It's a bras d'honneur of course.

      Jeez, don't they teach anything in GCSE French these days?

  21. ultrastarx1

    i find a vast majority of the faces of jeremy kyles subjects offensive

    could we make scummy looking people #trampface #talkswithbeeps post watershed only

    or could jeremy purchase a watershed, give em a wash, so me and the poor buggers down the job centre dont have to smell them..

    yes yes, implied smell should make a person post watershed

  22. TheProf Silver badge

    On the telly

    People swear on TV? I've never noticed. I can't hear a flipping thing they say because the background music is so blooming loud. I SAID THE BACKGROUND MUSIC IS SO BLOOMING LOUD.

    Stephen Fry did a TV series of programmes* on the English language a few years back. The one with a very sweary Brian Blessed was well worth watching. (As indeed the whole series was.)


  23. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    What about swearing in a foreign language, say, Stom?

    Anyway, I thought the BBC had set definite standards in the late 1960ies?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So wait

    You now have to be female to be a rugmuncher? Or are they saying the word is more offensive when aimed at a woman? So confusing.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: So wait

      Does the rug taste better with some mayo on it?

  25. cosymart


    Comedians that swear are to my mind just lazy in that they assume that if a swear word is used it makes what they say funnier. A well crafted joke does not require any profanity to make it funny.

  26. Aslan

    The Aristocrats

  27. ianmcca

    Swearing in real life

    In some parts of the country labourers on a building site sprinkle "fucking" liberally into everything they say: "I'm fucking parched. Give me your fucking cup and I'll fucking go and put the fucking kettle on and make some fucking tea". It was completely devoid of any intention to shock; it was part of their dialect, and meaningless. I was a student when I came across this and I was initially shocked but quickly got used to it and I even started to say it myself after a while.

  28. hmv

    Well, we'll just have to fucking differ on that.

    1. Stevie


      Here in New York they use the word "fuckin" as punctuaation.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: B*h!

        As they do in much of the English speaking world.

        1. Stevie

          Re: B*h!

          Fuckin' A. As in "There were too many fuckin' "a"s in that fuckin' spelling of punctuaation, fuck it!'

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022