Philip Larkin meets the moderators.
The defunct My Telegraph site would arbitrarily imposes automated censorship on expletives, which seems like a neat solution but it completely disregards the context. I was recently unable to call King Charles II ‘a bastard’, an expletive that I had cause to believe was an apt description of his vindictive pursuit of the ‘regicides’. By way of a response to this – unwarranted – moderation I posted Everything in moderation? which was replete with ‘bastards’. While the gratuitous use of obscenities is forbidden by The Telegaph, the presumption being that profanities are forbidden, gratuitousness is dependent on context.
More recently I added This be the verse, a poem written by Philip Larkin, to a comment. The results of automatic moderation, are shown in red italics, these were removed from the verse and a meaningless bastardized version of the poem left in place..
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.
In the post Lenny Bruce meets DH Lawrence: I mentioned that Tom Hume in his 2009 article ‘Ten years of the Guardian online – plotted in expletives’, Hume started with a list of commonly used swearwords and searched the Guardian’s content archive of the last 10 years.
The word ‘fuck’ in the SOED is both a verb and a noun, in the former case as an imprecation, exclamation, frequently used to express. anger, hatred, irritation, or to damn, curse, it is also used in other phrases as a meaningless intensifier. Used as a noun, it intends to mean the slightest amount (especially in not care a fuck, not give a fuck). The following link: Definitive Proof That Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, was found on Facebook. It relates to a story writing challenge undertaken by two students. I enjoyed the composition and was greatly amused by its conclusion, which ended with ad hominem expletives exchanged by the two authors.
Nevertheless, expletives do give emphasis when they are used explicitly to do so (as in This be the verse). Finally, many years ago I can remember listening with my mother to Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, it was being broadcast on the wireless when the following scenario occurred:
LIZA [looking round at him; taking the hint; and rising] Well: I must go. [They all rise. Freddy goes to the door]. So pleased to have met you. Good-bye. [She shakes hands with Mrs. Higgins].
MRS. HIGGINS. Good-bye.
LIZA. Good-bye, Colonel Pickering.
LIZA [nodding to the others] Good-bye, all.
FREDDY [opening the door for her] Are you walking across the Park, Miss Doolittle? If so—
LIZA. Walk! Not bloody likely. [Sensation]. I am going in a taxi. [She goes out]
Momentarily my mother feigned shock, perhaps reflecting the public opinion expressed in the media following the play’s opening night in 1914, then we both started giggling. This was sometime during the mid to late 40s, a long way from Kenneth Tynan using the fuck word on BBC television. Even further from the Guardian’s columns It’s enough to make you cuss and blind by Victoria Coren and Has swearing lost its power to shock? by Mark Lawson.
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