Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Who are these people ?

The Advertising Standards Authority have ruled that the Australian Tourist Board's posters with the slogan; "Where the bloody hell are you ?" are offensive and must be taken down. Apparently there have been a large number of complaints.

What a load of bollocks.

Swearing can be a sign of a lack of eloquence or education. In fact in everyday speech it often is, I have worked with people who swear so much that it is actually impossible to follow their meaning. But swearing can also be funny, dramatic and add colour to the language. That's probably why it is used so much in comedy.

And it is as old as the hills. There seem to be two sorts of swearing - religious and sexual. In the west the religious kind obviously comes out of the Christian tradition hence 'bloody hell' or even the now universally accepted 'damn'. The sexual kind such as the ubiquitous 'fuck' and 'bollocks' represent some of the oldest words in the English language and have come down to us from Anglo-Saxon and Middle-English.

Have a look at Chaucer or Shakespeare - there is plenty of swearing, and it forms a vital part of the language of these texts. Unless of course you read the versions of the nineteenth century puritanical prig Thomas Bowdler who made it his mission to publish versions of Shakespeare with all the dirty bits taken out for the benefit of schoolchildren. Nowadays he is regarded as a sanctimonious idiot, and rightly so, but I'm sure he would have been one of the many who have apparently complained to the ASA about the Aussie ad.

Why this obsession with language ? The argument is used that it is to protect children. I don't see this - context is everything and so kids work out very early on that how they behave in the playground is not necessarily how they behave when they have tea with granny. Just as adults work out that language appropriate in the pub may not go down so well at a business meeting.

There are wars going on in this world, people being tortured, children dying in poverty - what small-minded, up-tight morons feel moved to put pen to paper and complain to the ASA about an ad that says 'bloody hell'?

No comments: