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I'm a journalist, ex-national papers, now working in what we call "new" media.
In today's Daily Mail, Leo McKinstry attacks the strike by local government workers, taking particular issue with the union's evocation of the spirit of the 1926 General Strike. "Eighty years ago" he writes " the working class were facing real physical hardship. The coal miners...were battling against savage wage cuts and longer hours."

The Mail is of course correct to take a sympathetic view of the 1926 strikers. A shame that the paper could not find space to mention the role played in the strike by the Zinoviev letter of 1924, that purported to show that Russian Communists were organising and agitating in Britain. The letter terrified the middle classes and helped to harden attitudes against the working classes and the suffering miners. It was, of course a politically motivated forgery and published in the Daily Mail.

Also missing from McKinstry's article was a discussion of the immediate cause of the General Strike - a dispute involving printers at a newspaper which wished to run a leader denouncing the miners as a 'revolutionary movement'. The name of the paper? The Daily Mail.
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So Radio 4 has hired a continuity announcer with a Jamaican accent and Middle Britain - or parts of it - is not too happy. Listeners with names like Christopher Robins and Timmy Wren have been visiting the BBC's site to say things like "The tones, modulation and pronunciation are just very uncomfortable for Radio 4," and "His voice was American-ish but grating, difficult to understand and not at all pleasant to listen to," and "A hard-edged American note also enters the mix from time to time. I suspect Caribbean origins".

Only Timmy, Christopher and their chums can tell us why they find a Jamaican accent so objectionable but I hope the BBC reacts appropriately - perhaps by giving Neil his own show, preferably at prime time.
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"An American radio station has sacked a talkshow host who used a racial slur to describe the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice." according to Media Guardian (registration required).

Really? Well, not quite, as the story goes on to make clear. In fact the presenter was commenting favourably on Rice's stated desire to one day run the NFL when he said this:

"She's got the patent resumé of somebody that has serious skill. She loves football, she's African-American, which would be kind of a big coon," said Mr Lenihan. "Oh my God - I totally, totally, totally, totally am sorry for that. I didn't mean that." He later told a local television news channel he had meant to say "coup".

An inexcusable racial slur, said his boss who fired him on the spot. Pretty tough, you might think, for what was seemingly an unfortunate slip of the tongue. I suppose it's just about possible - and you would only be able to tell by listening to the broadcast - he genuinely was making an unpleasant racist joke but to judge from the report, it was simply a mistake.

A few years ago a Washington public official was forced to resign after his use of the word 'niggardly' was incorrectly taken as a racially offensive epithet. I believe he eventually got his job back so there may yet be hope for Lenihan.
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Shave 'em dry by Lucille Bogan recorded around 1934

"I got nipples on my titties, big as the end of my thumb,I got somethin' between my legs'll make a dead man come,Oh daddy, baby won't you shave 'em dry?
Aside: Now, draw it out!
Want you to grind me baby, grind me until I cry.
(Roland: Uh, huh.)
Say I fucked all night, and all the night before baby,And I feel just like I wanna, fuck some more,Oh great God daddy,
(Roland: Say you gonna get it. You need it.)
Grind me honey and shave me dry,And when you hear me holler baby, want you to shave it dry.I got nipples on my titties, big as the end of my thumb,Daddy you say that's the kind of 'em you want, and you can make 'em come,Oh, daddy shave me dry,
(Roland: She ain't gonna work for it.)
And I'll give you somethin' baby, swear it'll make you cry.I'm gon' turn back my mattress, and let you oil my springs,I want you to grind me daddy, 'til the bell do ring,Oh daddy, want you to shave 'em dry,Oh great God daddy, if you can't shave 'em baby won't you try?
Now if fuckin' was the thing, that would take me to heaven,I'd be fuckin' in the studio, till the clock strike eleven,Oh daddy, daddy shave 'em dry,
I would fuck you baby, honey I'd make you cry.Now your nuts hang down like a damn bell sapper,And your dick stands up like a steeple,Your goddam ass-hole stands open like a church door,And the crabs walks in like people.
Aside: Ow, shit!
(Roland: Aah, sure enough, shave 'em dry?)
Aside: Ooh! Baby, won't you shave 'em dry
A big sow gets fat from eatin' corn,And a pig gets fat from suckin',Reason you see this whore, fat like I am,Great God, I got fat from fuckin'.
Aside: Eeeeh! Shave 'em dry
(Roland: Aah, shake it, don't break it)
My back is made of whalebone,And my cock is made of brass,And my fuckin' is made for workin' men's two dollars,Great God, round to kiss my ass.
Aside: Oh! Whoo, daddy, shave 'em dry"

70 years on and still carrying a Parental Guidance sticker....
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I may have found a contender for the title of Earliest Recorded Fuck. And it's really quite old. More soon, once I've investigated......
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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.
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The first televised 'fuck' is a celebrated moment in social and cultural history (November 13 1965, Kenneth Tynan, "I doubt if there are any rational people to whom the word "fuck" would be particularly diabolical, revolting or totally forbidden.")

Was there an equivalent taboo-shattering moment in rock music? Obviously pop 'fucks' are ten a penny these days. Radio stations hardly bother to bleep them out. But who was first? You would think that a medium that makes such a fetishish of rebellion would be able to point proudly to the first recorded 'fuck'. But apparently not.

In the late Seventies, John Cooper Clarke had a poem called Evidently Chickentown that, live, went (from memory):

"The fucking cops are fucking keen
They fucking keep it fucking clean
The fucking chief's a fucking swine
He fucking draws the fucking line
The fucking kids he fucking blames
The fucking fun and fucking games
Are nowhere to be fucking found
Anywhere in Chickentown"

Clarke was highlighting the banality of repeated obscenities but when he came to record Chickentown in 1980, he had to change all the fucks to bloodys, which spoilt his poem and undermined his point. This kind of censorship was fairly common in those days and record execs commonly used the excuse that they were sparing the feelings of 'the ladies in the pressing plant' (rather than of the humourless City suits who sat on their boards).

There was the odd 'fuck' in the punk repertoire (though not as many as you might have expected) but what about earlier?

In the mid 60s, Country Joe and the Fish used to begin a number with a chant of "give us an F, give us an I, give us an S, give us an H" which over time mutated into "Give us an F...U...C...K": but was that live or was it ever recorded?

Similarly the MC5 used to scream "Kick out the jams, motherfuckers" at gigs but on record it became "brothers and sisters". I have a feeling that I've heard a live recording of the Door's The End in which Jim Morrison announces "Mother, I'm going to fuck you" but on record you hear "Mother, I'm going to..." followed by some incoherent screams.

So much for the 60s rebels. I'd like to think that pop music was pushing back the bounds of obscenity long before a foppish drama critic on the BBC, but I'm struggling. Back in the 50s was there a foul-mouthed bluesman or proto-rocker who committed the F-word to vinyl? If so, it's time he got the recognition he deserves.

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