OK I’m going to say this once: There is a difference between cursing, and cursing in context.
Last night the internet was up in arms over a tweet made by satirical online newspaper, The Onion, and an allegation that Family Guy creator and Oscars host Seth Macfarlane sexualized a nine-year-old.
Yesterday The Onion tweeted: “Everyone is afraid to say it but Quvenzhané Wallis (the nine-year-old Oscar nominated star of Beasts of The Southern Wild) is kind of a c***, right?,” and deleted it about an hour later after outrage spread like wildfire across the social network.
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I’m going to start this column with a veiled reference to a swear word, so I do hope you’re sitting down and have a brown paper bag handy to breathe into.
Are you ready? Right: Remember when the “c word” was considered the absolute worst, most shocking, most pants-droppingly offensive word in the English language?
If you’re scratching your head thinking “but isn’t it still?” then it’s quite likely you’re over the age of 35, don’t really use social media and haven’t watched TV in a while.
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By now there would hardly be a person in Australia who has not seen the video of that shocking pair of morons on a bus in the Melbourne suburb of Frankston haranguing a young French woman who had committed the unforgivable sin of singing quietly to herself in her native tongue.
To call these blokes bogans is an insult to bogans. It’s hard to find the words to convey the depth of their stupidity.
The aggression they displayed was repulsive, telling the woman they were going to “fillet” her with a fishing knife, and their racism was truly repellent, with the usual suggestions that she should eff off back to her own country.
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Apologies if you are offended by swearing. If you are offended by swearing, click on another article.
In the early 2000s former prime minister Paul Keating gave a speech at the Sydney Town Hall where he took aim at the city’s growing culture of materialism and spoke of his fear that the next generation of first homebuyers would be priced out of the Sydney property market. It was a thoughtful and sincere speech and one I covered in a straight fashion for my then newspaper The Daily Telegraph.
I got a call that night from one of the sub-editors, a man who to his professional detriment had spent some time on Fleet Street, who said ominously that he had given the copy “a small tickle-up”. The sub thought it should be noted that Keating, as an apparent enemy of materialism, owned an extensive number of antique French clocks. It’s the kind of phone call that usually guarantees another phone call the following day, and sure enough it did, with the phone ringing at 9.01am and a woman’s voice saying “Hello David, I have Mr Keating on the line for you.”
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To profane is human, and occasionally divine. Swearing can be functional, and powerful. In the right hands a good swear word can be wildly entertaining, shocking, surprising. Offensive. Funny. Liberating.
There’s a shedload of stories in this country and overseas about swearing at the moment, sparking kerfuffles over what language is acceptable, and what goes too far. Can there ever be a consensus?
2Day FM, employer and enabler of Kyle Sandilands’ rabid sewer mouth, has banned nine words as part of its attempt to impose a “kids in the car” decency test on radio announcers. On the blacklist are: “F . .k, f . .ker, motherf . .ker, arsehole, bullshit, shit, f . .kwit, c . .t and cock.”
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Mel and Kochie are our friends. That’s what the ads on the back of buses tell us at the moment and that’s the way Sunrise producers want us to feel about their star presenting duo. It works. Many of us do feel that way.
Over at Nine, Today stole Sunrise’s set but they’ve never quite managed to poach Sunrise’s blend of down home folksiness and folksy down homeness. Karl Stefanovic went and transformed himself from sensible foreign correspondent to superblokerrific eccentric everydude, and that has largely worked. But it hasn’t worked as well as “The Sunrise Family”.
Mornings are family time. Mornings are nice time. Mornings are when your food is (mostly) not deep fried, your beverages are (hopefully) non-alcoholic and your kids are (slightly) better behaved. One thing mornings are definitely NOT is swearing time.
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My freshly kindergarten-ed daughter has been learning all sorts of stuff at her new school.
Last weekend, for instance, she missed a ping pong shot and chucked a McEnroe-esque hissy fit while bawling “oh s—t”. (Lesson from school number one: swearing gets results.)
When I launched into my umpteenth Why Profanity Really Isn’t Such a Great Idea for Five Year Olds lecture, Alice asked a bunch of questions along the lines of “what does s—t even mean?”, “don’t YOU sometimes say s—t? and “does it count if I just say s—t quietly on my own?”
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Conspiracy theorists should adjust their tin-foil hats if they think Julia Gillard was personally involved in the release of the Sweary Kevin video.
Today she is attending a function where she is able to look every centimeter a national leader, the commemoration of the WWII bombing of Darwin. This is an important occasion at which a Prime Minister can look like a Prime Minister and not an MP down in the ruck of scrapping politicians.
No way would she have wanted the moment ruined by nasty internal Labor Party head kicking.
However, the video release did just that.
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Well, puck me with a fitchfork. The F-word is apparently an acceptable part of Australian speech.
That’s the only conclusion you can draw after the trade mark examiner gave two thucking fumbs up to a soon-to-be-released product called “Nuckin Futs”.
After the initial trade mark application was rejected, a savvy lawyer argued that the f-bomb is an everyday part of Australian speech. And he won. The product is on its way, with the only caveat being it can’t be marketed to minors.
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With the election running faster than a ‘roo on the hot desert’, the Australian slang and euphemisms have been coming thick and fast. For a politician it is clearly a calculated move: during the recent televised debate, Tony Abbott dropped the term ‘fair dinkum’ four times before Gillard started using it back in an ironic sense.
Even Kevin Rudd made his return to the campaign trail claiming that ‘I actually don’t think Mr Abbott is fair dinkum.’ But really, are any of us buying this usage? How many Australians can listen to politicians using slang terms, and find it natural and believable?
For many Australians, slang is a part of every day life. It’s a useful way of shortening our sentences, has created a sense of camaraderie, and done wonders for defining the Australian image. But much about Australian slang comes from its casual delivery, and it’s association with a relaxed atmosphere. Neither of which are terms used to describe politics.
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Oscar Wilde, the famous 19th century Irish poet once said: “The expletive is the refuge of the semi-literate”. In other words; swearing is for dumb heads.
Well, all I can say is, if the ‘refuge’ was an actual place, it would be packed to the rafters—considering the number of foul-mouthed ‘dumb heads’ around these days. And yes, okay, I might be among their number too at times, I admit. (Before anyone starts calling me a hypocrite because they’ve heard me say naughty words). Yes, we 21st century folk certainly say lots of words that would’ve made our Victorian ancestors’ hair curl.
As a kid, while I soon became aware of most swear words (mainly thanks to the neighbourhood kids who were clearly more world-wise than me) I would never dare use them. And, even though my Dad, an ex-army pugilist and a Scotsman to boot (apparently a very bad combo for swear-ability) was always pretty careful not to swear around us kids or in public, I still, in fact, heard my first F Bomb from his own lips.
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Call it Humpty Dumpty jurisprudence. Australia has a new arbiter of taste in magistrate Robbie Williams, who has let a student off the hook after calling a police officer a prick.
Williams has enraged police with his ruling but at the same time shown himself in touch with the broader community’s appreciation of the finer points of swearing.
Police are outraged that his ruling appears to condone the verbal abuse of officers, but Williams’s decision explored the delicate way in which swear words change their intensity depending on context. There is also the less delicate reality that some police officers can be quite accurately described as pricks.
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White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs gave a lesson in how to manage a potential blow-up yesterday with one little Tweet.
As you might have heard, US Vice President Joe Biden got caught by an open mike after introducing President Barack Obama, who was about to announce the passage of his historic health care reforms.
“This is a big f—-ing deal,” the gaff-prone VP said in the President’s ear, loud enough to be audible on television. Gibbs’s Tweet? “And yes Mr. Vice President, you’re right…”
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EDs: South Australian Opposition Leader Isobel Redmond has banned swearing in Liberal party meetings. Here she explains why.
I am somewhat surprised at the level of interest in my anti-swearing stance.
It’s not that I’m a prude – I don’t expect that people will never swear. Indeed, I’ve been know to utter the odd expletive myself. But in the workplace and especially in my workplace the Parliament, I take the view that it is inappropriate.
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People behave better online than in real life, moderating their language, respecting the views of others and being selective in their choice of invective.
That’s my conclusion after completing what I am claiming is the first definitive study on the language of building workers in a confined space, otherwise known as an online discussion board.
Thinking ourselves prudent, we decided to vet online messages of support for Ark Tribe, the Adelaide building worker facing jail for refusing to answer questions to the Building Commission , before we posted them online.
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Ask any marketing professional in the world today what they believe is the most potent asset in communications and they will tell you, authenticity – and if you don’t have it, then fake it.
Watching the Prime Minister singing at the community cabinet meeting in Brisbane last week reminded me of another performer with whom Kevin Rudd has more in common than he would like to admit.
In Eddie Murphy’s film, Coming to America, Randy Watson took the stage at the Jackson Heights School Hall to perform “The Greatest Love of All”.
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There are two types of people in the world: people who think there are two types of people in the world, and those of us who think it’s even dumber than the zodiac to divide people arbitrarily into just two irreconcilable camps.
However, the one issue which fits this never-the-twain-shall-meet division is swearing.
People either dislike swearing to the point of loathing it - hello Mum - or are perfectly comfortable with it, swear frequently themselves, find it amusing or edifying when other people use swear words to make their point.
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