17 November 2010

**** and [redacted]

I thought it rather curious just how coy some newspapers, online and actually printed on paper, and television reports were about the ‘Twitter Joke Trial’. The original offending tweet was:
"Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!"
The original tweet contains two words which I would have thought are nowadays considered to be very mild swear words — ‘crap’ and ‘shit’, yet many reports excised the first, and replaced the second with ’s***’ or similar, or even [it]. One I saw had ‘Crap’ in full, and also ’s***’ which I thought was very strange.
Why should be seem to be in need of this protection? You might say, in case children are watching, and perhaps there is some sense in that, though children will learn such words soon enough. They might come across words during their early Bible study, such as ‘fornication’ and ‘adultery’ in their complete forms, and might well want to know what these might mean. It’s unlikely that they would be satisfied with ‘being very naughty’ as an explanation for very long. By protecting children, are we not really indicating our inability to communicate openly with them; our problem, not theirs?
And the rest of us? It’s not as if we don’t know the words. We may or may not use them in everyday speech, but that is our choice. We know what they mean; if we didn’t know what they meant, it’s highly unlikely that we would be offended. How could we be offended by something if we don’t know what it is?
So, we still need to be protected? Are we really so sensitive that we cannot bear the sight of such words?
It may be a myth, it may be true, but it is said that there is a spinster’s grave somewhere, with this inscribed on the headstone: 
I haven’t missed as much as you think. 
So your maiden aunt may be more worldly wise than you thought. And how would you explain the inscription to a small child?

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