About Me

My photo
I'm a journalist, ex-national papers, now working in what we call "new" media.
Because I work in the London office of a Big American Internet Company, one of things I am required to worry about is whether or not we can swear on the site.

This is an issue that comes into focus at this time of the year because of the imminence of Big Brother. Quite apart from the rumour that one of the candidates on the shortlist is a sufferer from Tourette’s syndrome (though this is a story that I recall being peddled last year, too), you can more or less guarantee that as the progranmme progresses, it will degenerate into a festival of fucks, shits , wankers etc

But it is very popular and we need to decide what our users (and our US owners, Americans tending to be more puritanical about this sort of stuff than Brits) can take.

With this in mind we had a look at a document prepared by Ofcom (a sort of media regulatory organisation) about what is and isn’t acceptable on TV. With impressive, if rather po-faced thoroughness, Ofcom has asked a cross-section of the population how offended they would be by different expressions, running the gamut from ‘motherfucker’ through ‘blaadclaat’ and ‘bumbu’ (whose definition is not given but I’m guessing it’s about being gay) through to ‘spade’, ‘yid’ and ‘papist’. ‘Shit’, slightly to my surprise, is described as a ‘mild, toilet word, not really offensive’. (“David Currie, the chairman of Ofcom, apologised for being late for the meeting, explaining that he had just been for a shit….”)

What stood out in this swearfest was the very first item on the Ofcom list: the phrase ‘Bastard God’. This sounds like the sort of thing Aleister Crowley might have screamed at the climax of a black mass but isn’t the sort of obscenity you hear on Coronation Streer. I typed it into a search engine and didn’t get much back, other than a blog about Buddhism and a Myspace profile of a heavy metal band called The Arm and Sword of a Bastard God (why can’t black metal bands have nice names….?).

Next on the list is ‘Jesus shitting Christ’. Does anybody, anywhere talk like this or is someone at Ofcom making this stuff up?

The full document is here. The list is right at the end.