Drew Allan: A bonfire of profanities

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A COUPLE of weeks ago in this slot, I asked for your views on how The should cover profanity. Should we using asterisks, or not? The response, by and large, has been: well, it depends.

Context, as in most things in newspapers, is everything.

Here are some of your comments: 

* When listening to radio drama, our focus is on hearing and imagination and any swearing is much more noticeable, but there is not a lot of swearing compared to television, where watching the screen is our prime focus. To illustrate this, having the subtitles on screen with swear words on full display has much more impact on the senses than just hearing it, and it is the same with offensive language in the printed word such as a newspaper. The type of readership also has to be taken into account by editors and it is unlikely the church magazine will contain such words, asterisks or not – Alan Morris, Blanefield.

* It would appear that the occasion of use defines whether a swear word is used at all. The following quotation is from a letter sent by a sailor stationed at Scapa Flow in World War One. He wrote: “Dear Mum, I cannot tell you where I am, I don’t know where I am, but where I am there is miles and miles of bugger all. Love, Ted.” The description in his letter would have been greatly diminished if he had just written “nothing” instead of “bugger all” – Thelma Edwards, Kelso.

* Goodness me, and hang it all … I can only hope that good sense will prevail at The and that my mornings will not be sullied by the absence of its refined asterisks – Russell Smith, Largs.

* Some time ago you referred to failed event being a “****-up”. I pointed out that the “cock” being referred to in the phrase and being disguised (to a very limited extent) did not need asterisks since it did not refer to a male member, but to the firing mechanism of a flintlock weapon. There, if the cock is up, the weapon goes off at half-cock (not half-****) and does not fire. 
If the “****” that was “up” referred to a male member, whatever else was happening, failure – at least anatomically – would not be part of the scenario; the metaphor would itself fail – Ian Brown, Giffnock.

* I’m quite sure if I sent you a letter saying that I felt sorry for that poor bastard Richard Leonard for all the crap he got from the bloody Labour Party, you wouldn’t publish it – Ruth Marr, Stirling.

Ach, you know what? In this case, let’s publish and be d****d.

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