Chief, what’s our style on f*ck?

Interested to see the Guardian’s readers’ editor pointing out how swear-happy the paper is becoming – to the moral outrage of middle-class parents everywhere. Siobhain Butterworth this week said:

Is the Guardian getting ruder? It seems so. The paper published the f-word 33 times in 1985, 495 times in 2000 and 843 times in 2007. The incidence is higher if web content is taken into account.

Now I can’t remember if I’ve ever had to sub out a swear word. It certainly hasn’t appeared in any style guide I’ve come across – although the 1990s’ fuck-off ringbinder that was the Radio Times style guide probably had a section in there somewhere on how to style with replacement asterisk gobbledygook.

Mostly, though, the F-word appears in direct quotes – so whaddyagonnado? Where it’s real-life speech it reflects that person and subs don’t tend to mess with it, even when there’s some temptingly bad grammar, innit. But maybe this is a style clash. The Guardian wants to be seen as edgy. But I can’t imagine most of the mags or websites I work for letting the F-word go through.

So I thought… I know! Cuh! Sheer brilliance (okay, well, blindingly obvious.) I’ll look up how the media deals with that doyen of profanity, Gordon Ramsay.

On Female First, they open up an interview with the F-Word king like this:

Accepted journalistic practice dictates that changing the quotes in a celebrity interview is entirely unacceptable; the fast track to career suicide.

Nevertheless, in all honesty, almost every quote you are about to read has been doctored, for the simple reason that the interviewee is Gordon Ramsay, a walking, talking swearbox in a chef’s hat.

At The Independent, they’ve left more than the F-word in but with a caveat headline:

The gospel according to Gordon Ramsey (Warning: it may be enough to put you off your breakfast)

While on a 2002 BBC transcipt of his Desert Island Discs session, he appears not to have sworn once. Did he keep it clean for radio – or was he edited?

If the Guardian is getting ruder, and swearing is being devalued as shock currency, then perhaps house style guides should introduce a policy. As for me, I’m sticking an asterisk in there – because it’s big, funny, clever and quaintly British, what with us being such a nation of virulent potty-mouths.

Anyone subs out there with a take on this, or am I just talking a load of old Charlie Oscar Charlie Kilo?

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