What’s the worst word in English?

In 1965 a line was crossed: theatre critic Kenneth Tynan was the first to say ‘fuck’ on live TV.

I bet the culprit isn’t smiling any longer

Since then the line has been crossed so often that it has become smudged. Words beginning with just about every letter of the alphabet have flooded the airwaves, drowning the stultifying norms of public decency.

That proved yet again that the march of progress is unstoppable, while also adding a facet to our current understanding of progress. Take technology out of it, and progress is essentially mass brainwashing in the severing of all traditional roots of morality, reason, decency and etiquette.

Since television, now abetted by social media, has effectively replaced education, Tynan’s pioneering effort has borne rich fruit. These days obscenities are ringing throughout the land, and one can routinely hear even little tots describe one another in a language that suggests intimate familiarity with genital anatomy and the more recondite sexual variants.

As a result of overuse, words that used to act as shockers and intensifiers have lost the power to either shock or intensify. Their inappropriate use in public (I’ve forfeited the right to object to their use in private) only serves the purpose of branding the speaker as a tasteless, ill-mannered boor. Or else, depending on the audience, as a free-thinking rebel who can soar above convention.

Still, flouting convention is what progress is all about, and the sewer of torrential obscenity never gets plugged on our TV. However, our media watchdog has hypocritically banned swear words before the 9 PM watershed – pretending that today’s children dutifully go to bed at that time and have no TV sets or computers in their bedrooms.

Having paid perfunctory lip service to propriety, our TV networks can safely continue to ignore it in every way that matters. A new world has no room for old morality.

Instead new morality has barged in to take up the slack. Its rules are enforced fanatically, and deviations are punished cruelly.

The new line was drawn on the football pitch in 2011, when one player, John Terry, called another a “fucking black cunt”. The only word in the triad that isn’t an obscenity is the middle one, and yet it was only that word that got Terry banned. Had he limited his self-expression to the two outside terms, he wouldn’t have even drawn a caution, nor raised an eyebrow.

The message was clear. It was acceptable to insult people in the foulest possible way, impugning the sexual behaviour of their mothers, accusing them of having oral or anal intercourse with their fathers – whatever. And the offended parties could have no recourse.

But any reference to their race, even without using overtly pejorative terminology, and the offender will have to face the slings and arrows of outraged modernity. As to real racial slurs, they will draw not just slings and arrows but the executioner’s axe, at this point still only metaphorically.

Our media regulators responded with decisiveness hitherto associated with rather unsavoury regimes. Their laisser-faire attitude to post-watershed obscenity remained in place, but racial insults were banned at any time – whatever the mitigating context.

Stricter standards are now applied to racial slurs than even to homicide, where extenuating circumstances may be taken into account. To our progressives, racism, however contextual or tangential, or however broadly defined, is a worse crime than murder.

What makes the new morality more tyrannical than any traditional Western tyranny is that it’s mostly imposed not by the state but by the people themselves. They’ve been brainwashed into enthusiastic self-policing. Before too long they’ll be sufficiently indoctrinated to arrest themselves, rough themselves up and then put themselves in prison.

The BBC’s social affairs correspondent Fiona Lamdin got a taste of it when reporting a vile racist attack of two thugs setting upon a black man. They deliberately drove their car at the victim, leaving him with a broken leg, nose and cheekbone.

In the process they hurled racist abuse at the man, which Miss Lamdin reported. She told her ideologically sensitive viewers: “Just to warn you, you’re about to hear highly offensive language… Because as the men ran away, they hurled racial abuse, calling him a nigger”.

That didn’t violate the injunction issued by watchdog Ofcom in 2016, to the effect that, though the word was “highly unacceptable at all times”, it could be used when “strong contextualisation is required”.

‘Contextualisation’ could hardly have been stronger than that, but Miss Lamdin’s viewers weren’t into such nuances. They knew they had been ordered to be offended by that word, however used, and offended they obligingly were.

The BBC received 18,656 complaints, of the kind that in the country of my youth were called denunciations. The Corporation explained that the decision to include the criminal word was taken “by a team of people including a number of senior editorial figures”, but that only made matters worse.

Yet for once, those senior BBC figures were right: the word made the report even more poignant – just as saying that the thugs broke the victim’s leg was more effective than saying that they caused grievous bodily harm.

Just compare these two sentences: “They screamed ‘nigger’ as the man tried to run away” and “They screamed racial invective as the man tried to run away”. Which one condemns the thugs more strongly? Which one represents accurate reporting, as opposed to wishy-washy woke waffle?

These are moot questions as far as our morbidly sensitive public is concerned. The OFFENCE toggle switch has been implanted into their minds, and each time it’s flicked they are offended on cue.

Well, they offend me no end. Can you suggest where I should post my complaint?

P.S. Wearing face masks, especially on a hot day, has one definite advantage: it enables a man to concentrate on what’s really important in a woman. Her soul, that is, and what did you think I meant?

7 thoughts on “What’s the worst word in English?”

  1. I remember an office conversation back in the early ’90s. A colleague (who was a right-on, left wing Guardian reading type, a shop steward and Labour Party member) told of a dilemma that arose while he was playing football on the previous Sunday morning. As usual, there were cries of “Mark that fat bastard!”….”Watch that lanky twat on the wing”….”Ref, book that ginger cunt!” when our colleague heard himself shout out “Get that black bastard!”.

    He was mortified, and stood there, red-faced and pondering. Is is always racist to call a man a black bastard? What if he actually is black, and (because of his team membership) is a bastard? Is not black the preferred and politically correct identifying term? (Or was then; it could have changed by now…). Is it not a perverse form of racism to excuse a man from putative tribal bastardy because of his skin colour? Perhaps he should consult the gentleman in question after the match to ask him how to combine his most obvious identifying feature with a disgustingly abusive term in a manner which does not breach standards of racial etiquette?

    When he pulled himself together sufficiently to resume play, they were one-nil down. Nobody else had noticed, or if they had, they didn’t mind. He didn’t say if it was the black bastard who scored.

  2. There are instances when a person can give a friendly slap on the back and say, “How ya going you old black-fella?”… that is when the speaker is also black.

    1. If you watch a Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy video, you’ll see that even the n-word is a permanent feature of their vocabulary. I can understand, however, that blacks resent outsiders using that word. What I can’t understand is the insane culture of mandated offence-taking and the ensuing attempts to control word and thought. But them I’m allergic to fascism in all its manifestation.

  3. I work among white blue collars (old, young, mid-aged) who’ve likely never read a serious book or newspaper in their lives. All in all they are good sorts, would give you their shirt off their backs as they say, in a time of need. But the filthy (often ideological) garbage that they vomit in casual conversation is shocking even to me, who have always been surrounded by such a culture. Only yesterday a very young coworker, a lovable intelligent girl not yet 16, who has all the beautiful innocence that young children used to have, scolded me on this matter: Having asked me of my musical tastes I told her that I liked all music except rap, citing and mocking (ineptly I admit) its typically stupid lyrics, “motherfucka….ho…bitch…nigga…..etc, etc.” At the word, ‘nigga’, all faces, including hers, went white. In short the consensus was that I wasn’t supposed to say that word. My point, however, is that this young and very well mannered innocent child, is daily taught by these same blue collars the street names of the most obscene sexual positions, practices, in language that would make the lowest street pimp blush, to an accompaniment of general laughter and merriment. Again, all of them good trustworthy people. It’s almost impossible to understand anymore.

    Btw Mr Boot, you say that you understand blacks being offended when outsiders use that word. Because, one assumes it is the most odious of insults to them. Fine. But is it not a sign of some sort of mass derangement to sanction and approve the use of this most odious insult among themselves, in casual conversation, and to use it as an embellishment even to their music?
    Thanks, Mr Boot, for allowing us to post our blustering comments and often deigning to answer them……

    1. There’s no deigning involved. It’s my pleasure to see that some people think enough of my scribbles to comment on them. As to rap, it’s not really music at all – it’s a shamanistic ritual, screaming defiance of a world its practitioners and listeners don’t understand. Shock value is essential to rap because it has no other. Hence all those muthefuckas and niggas. And hence also the attraction of rap to our masses of any race or social origin (George Osborne is a fan of rap) who, because they can’t be cultured, want to be ‘cool’. And coolness is exceedingly associated with negrification and hence rap. It becomes a club with open access but nevertheless tight rules. The shamans (rappers) and their immediate black entourage are the only ones allowed to use the club’s property, such as those shibboleths you mention. The outer circle would be breaking the rules if they followed suit – they are only associate members and don’t have all the same privileges. That psychological quirk isn’t unique to blacks. For example, Pushkin, Russia’s national poet, once wrote (to quote from waning memory): “I often say that Russia is awful and barbaric, but it hurts me when foreigners agree.” It’s the same sort of thing.

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