All the swears

Once upon a time, in my former life as an actual librarian, one of the areas of the library that I was supposed to be familiar with but which I never had much fondess for was the Official Publications section. Many of us referred to this area as "Off Pubs", possibly just to make things more confusing for people, but personally I always like that it made an otherwise dull set of shelves sound like the kind of place that Begbie from Trainspotting or Jake the Muss would frequent. Sticky floors. Dodgy-looking types playing pool. That's the sort of thing you'd find in "Off Pubs", surely?

In reality, Off Pubs were mostly volumes and volumes of Hansards (transcripts of debates in Parliament) and legislation, statutory regulations, statistics and bills before Parliament. There'd also be reports from various Crown entities and departments. As important as it was for these items to be freely available to the public, you can understand that they didn't have the raw sex appeal of other stretches of shelving. Your public library keeps Edward Cullen and Michael Cullen in separate sections for a reason, dear reader.

Which is to say that I don't spend and have never spent much time actively looking forward to the release of government publications and reports. There's pretty much only the one that gets me all excited and gleeful and that publication is the BSA's report on the acceptability of words in broadcasting, cheekily titled "What not to swear" (contains NSFW language. Durr).

The BSA or Broadcasting Standards Authority is part of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, which is a proper government department. Part of the reason I love the "What not to swear" report is because it is a very factual, boring document in many ways. Apart from the vast number of swear words it contains. Tables of them. Appendices of them, even. There's something about the very straight-faced prose of the document that in combination with tremendous amounts of cuss-words that tickles my fancy (and a few other new terms for my fancy that I just learned from the aforementioned report).

The purpose of the research and report is to show what the current attitude among Kiwis is to a variety of colourful words. Is it now okay to say "bugger" after 8.30pm, for instance? Pretty much, yes, as it turns out. But words and their meaning and their impact are always changing, hence the need to occasionally test the filth-laden waters, as it were.

So what are the top offenders in the "smorgasbord of smut" table, I hear you ask. Well, naturally I can't say exactly or I'd get in trouble. I could probably wear out my "8" key typing a bunch of asterisks but I thought perhaps I might just provide rough translations instead (if you really can't guess these then you can always check page 9 on the report for the full, unexpurgated version).

1.     One of the favourite words of Pam from True Blood. That thing that Hit Girl said in Kick Ass that made everyone go "oooh". Never, ever call your mum this.

2.     "I ain't sayin' she a gold digger, but she ain't messin' with no broke ..."

3.     The son of God with his sweary middle name included.

4.     Your dad is technically one of these. But try not to think about it because that's gross.

5.     Rooster flavoured lollipop, anyone?

6.     Instruction to make the beast with two backs

7.     Go away but do so in a way that is somehow reminiscent of number 8.

8.     Sexual congress.

9.     Bundle of sticks tied together.

10.   Woman who has sex and doesn't feel horribly ashamed about it.

11.   Professional number 10.

12.   Rooster.

13.   If you do this to fire, that's good. If it's happened to your mental capacity, that's bad.

14.   Follower in the ways of Onan.

15.   Rear end aperture.

16.   Son of God (without middle name).

17.   Richard Nixon. King .... Seddon. Maybe just politicians generally.

18.   If you were on a first-name basis with the son of God you'd call him this.

19.   Beer is sometimes referred to as this and then it turns into it.

20.   Are you calling me a lady dog, because that's what my mum said that word means.

21.   A spindle could do this to you and make you fall asleep. Or your boyfriend.

22.   Jesus' dad.

23.   Go away but do so in a way that is somehow reminiscent of number 19.

24.   People born outside holy matrimony. Jon Snow. Don Draper. Me.  

25.   Needed for all sorts of sports. More than one, preferably.

26.   "TV on Wednesday nights is always ..."

27.   Somehow the excrement of one animal is more indicative of untrustworthiness than any other.

28.   A slightly gentler version of number 26.

29.   In rugby games players come off "covered in claret" rather than ...

30.   Reminiscent of both number 25 and number 27.

31.   Bugger (well, I've already used it)

Did that stretch your sweary vocab muscles? It's a bit like a really, really dirty cryptic crossword, isn't it?

(Note to self - investigate possibility of compiling a book of swear-laden crosswords. Perfect for the Christmas market.)

Not too many suprises on the list itself; the "worst" word is at the top and tamer fare is at the bottom. What is really interesting is Appendix 1 of the report (p29 for those of you who are curious) which includes words that those surveyed found unacceptable but which weren't included for rating in the other part of the survey. The devil on my shoulder wants to read all of them out in alphabetical order, post it on to YouTube and pretend that it's "performance poetry". The angel on my shoulder has its hands pressed firmly to its ears and is feeling faint.

As hilarious a read as the appendix is, it's not the descriptive terms for body parts or sexual acts that are the most noteworthy in my opinion, rather it's the relatively tame words or phrases that people have suggested as "unacceptable" that really intrigue me.

Take for instance this suggestion.

Yoos and yoos fellas, yoos got the love?

It appears that this person is dreadfully offended by Stan Walker. Fair enough. He wasn't very good on X-Factor, in my opinion.

But what about the following -




Bluurr (obviously an Oasis fan)

OMG, Oh My God


I can't help but feel sorry for anyone who gets offended by "Goodgracious" or the mention of sex. They must live in an almost constant state of angst. Indeed, they must have quite a pained existence. I expect it's just this sort of difficulty that causes people to wear unironic appliqued items. It must be very hard to focus clearly when one is being constantly assaulted by all the damns and the sex and whatnot.

Speaking of focus, I have no idea what the person who suggested "Presbyopia" as an unacceptable word was thinking of since Wikipedia tells me is the eye condition that causes middle-aged people to start needing "hobby glasses". Was someone really confused about Presbyterians or lesbianism, or is this just the work of a optometrist with a sense of humour? So many questions, yoos guys. So. Many.

So what do you think of the findings of the "What not to swear" research? Does this more or less fit with your own attitudes to swearing on TV? Were you able to correctly guess all my rude word cryptic clues? What would Malcolm Tucker say about all of this?

Sadly, I'm going to have to ask that you keep the language in your comments clean. But feel free to use numbers from the above if that would be helpful, or your own descriptive euphemisms.

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