Bollox: Out of the Mouths of Babes

Image: badgreeb RECORDS / flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A few years back, I was visiting with friends who had several boys, the youngest of which was aged three at the time. While I was there, it was decided that Daddy would bring the youngest to work with him for the day. Daddy’s work was a local garage/farm machinery depot, where all sorts of vehicles were bought/sold/brought for fixing. As you might imagine, for a three year old boy – tractors, wheels, tools, hoists, platforms, hammers, mechanics, the works –  this equated to three year old heaven.

Off they went for the morning, returning home to his Mammy for lunch. ‘Well’, she said, ‘how did you get on in Daddy’s work?’ ‘Grand’, says the three year old, before rushing out to the back garden to his plastic toy tractor. They watched as he methodically turned it upside down, mimicking the view underneath he had no doubt seen in the garage. He examined it closely, stood back, spat on the ground, gave it a kick and said, in an exasperated voice, “Well, fuck it anyway…’tis bolloxed…”

Needless to say, he didn’t go back after lunch.

It’s every parent’s nightmare when children start repeating strong language overheard in adult company; and yet, we inevitably find it hilarious amongst ourselves. I am always reminded of that story whenever I see the a particular ‘banned advertisement’ shared on social media. By ‘banned’, you should of course read, ‘not banned’, just ‘never released’ – except for social media, resulting in clever, ideal viral marketing guaranteed to be shared often and widely.

And yet, look closely. Did an international car manufacturer, or more accurately, its overpaid advertising company, really make a child actor speak such potty-mouthed lines? Of course not. With the exception of the first example of ‘Bollox’, the child’s face is turned away for the most part – allowing the offending line to be dubbed over. Indeed, if you look closely at the first example, you can imagine the child actually saying something like ‘Box’, and the offending line being dubbed in for full effect later on in post production.

All’s well that ends well. As long as we don’t actually make certain people swear for our amusement, we can all remain amused at the very thought of it. Just as long as they don’t actually swear.

Altogether, a fine example of the modern advertising/media power/shock/thrill inherent in hearing strong swearing coming from quarters where you least expect it. Swearing sells, it seems, as long you never mind the bollox/bollocks.

See for example: classically trained Shakespearean actors with received pronunciation…

+ + +

For anyone in the Hiberno/English speaking world, the word ‘Bollox/Bollocks’ is a ubiquitous swear word of choice. You can *literally* use it for anything.

“He’s an awful bollox…” (“He’s a awful fucking gobshite”)

“You’re talking bollox…” (“You’re talking shit”)

“Ask me bollox…” (“You have no chance in having success in what you are looking to gain, so you might as well talk – in vain – to my bared arsed testicular area…”)

“Go on outa that, ye little bollox…” (“Don’t be deluding yourself, person of younger years than I…”)

“He’d give ye a pain in the bollox” (“He’d give ye a pain in another area, apart from your arse…”)

“Bollox it anyway” (“Fuck it, anyway…”)

“I’m after making a right bollox out of that, man…” (“I’m after making a right fucking shit job of that, man…”)

“Yer man thinks he’s the dog’s bollox…” (“Yer man thinks he’s so good/attractive/desirable, he thinks he’s equivalent to a dog licking its own testicular area…”)

“I was that fucking bolloxed when I came home last night, I went straight to bed…” (“I was that fucking tired when I came home last night, I went straight to bed…”)

+ + +

13 thoughts on “Bollox: Out of the Mouths of Babes

  1. Roderick December 28, 2014 / 11:33 am

    Not forgetting the old schoolboy joke about the man in a restaurant who mispronounces gateaux as “gatox”. Atter being corrected several times by the waitress, he finally agrees to order a piece of gateau. The waitress goes off with his order, only to return seconds later with the news that gateau is off (finished).
    “Oh, bolleaux!” says the man.


    • vox hiberionacum December 28, 2014 / 3:01 pm

      Ah yes. I remember that one. In the Irish version, the end goes: ‘Its off? Well that’s a load of Bolleaux!’


  2. Brodie Waddell December 28, 2014 / 1:06 pm

    “As long as we don’t actually make certain people swear for our amusement, we can all remain amused at the very thought of it. Just as long as they don’t actually swear.”

    Yes, I think that’s true when it comes to ‘entertainment’ and selling cars, but as the ‘Potty-Mouthed Pricesses for Feminism’ video demostrates (below), children swearing can also be used to call attention to the fact that ‘offensive’ is very much in the eyes of the beholder.


  3. Anne Brennan December 28, 2014 / 8:28 pm

    Actually, bollocks (hilarious though the word sounds) is not ubiquitous in the
    English-speaking world. Here in Canada, I’ve heard it only once–from my husband’s English cousin.


    • vox hiberionacum December 29, 2014 / 12:16 am

      Ah, I kind of meant Hiberno-English, when I typed Hiberno/English. But you knew what it meant when you heard it, I’d wager?

      Liked by 2 people

  4. LH December 29, 2014 / 7:09 am

    Oftentimes, I don’t even think that people really have that much of a problem with children swearing, but rather they’re just terrified that *others* will have a problem with it and will place the blame on them.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. hanmeng December 31, 2014 / 5:50 pm

    In U.S. English, I’ve heard “bollix”, which doesn’t seem to be vulgar.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. rjp February 15, 2015 / 3:37 pm

    I’d probably put “extremely inebriated” for the last one – in my (English, UK) experience, it’s a lot more common than “tired” in that context.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. vox hiberionacum February 15, 2015 / 8:12 pm

    Interesting. It wouldn’t necessarily be that here. Then again, we have umpteen different ways of saying ‘extremely inebriated, aside from bolloxed. Locked. Fluthered. Legless. Gee-eyed. Stocious. Three sheets to the wind. 😉


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s