As we bid a fond fuckity-bye to 2015, it’s a good time to look back on an eventful year in sweary language. To honor the highlights (and the lowlights), we present the first annual Tucker Awards, named after the patron saint of Strong Language: Malcolm Tucker, the brilliantly foulmouthed character played by Peter Capaldi in the BBC series The Thick of It and the movie spinoff In the Loop.
Without further ado, let’s get this shitshow started.
Best Fucking Political Swearing
The race for the Republican presidential nomination has supplied a bumper crop of public swearing, as the New York Times reported in typically bowdlerized fashion in November (“Foul-Mouthed and Proud of It on the ’16 Campaign Trail”). But the GOP swear-fest got started early, back in May, when New Jersey governor Chris Christie (not yet a presidential candidate) gave a profanity-laced speech at the New Jersey Legislative Correspondents Club dinner.
A few choice excerpts:
Anything that gets me off this fucking stage next year, I’m willing to do anything. Why do you think I might run for president? Cause I don’t know what primary is in May 2016 next year, but if I’m at 1 fucking percent, I will be there.
The reason we don’t have a video is that we just don’t give a shit anymore. We don’t give a shit about this or any of you.
Speaking of things I don’t give a shit about, let’s start with the president of whatever this thing is [NJ.com reporter Claude Brodesser-Akner]. I’m not even going to try the last name, not because I can’t pronounce French names or whatever it is, but because, again, I don’t give a shit what his name is.
Or, as the New York Times delicately put it, “He repeatedly told the group that he did not give a darn — about them or the show — but used a more colorful expression.”
Runners-up: We must of course acknowledge Donald Trump’s contributions to political discourse in 2015. Four years ago, Trump’s frequent F-bombs were enough for The National Review’s Dennis Prager to declare that he was unfit for the presidency. But this time around, Trump’s potty-mouth just seems to propel him higher in the polls.
On the stump this year, Trump has favored S-bombs. In May (a month before he announced his candidacy), he declared, “I don’t give a shit about lobbyists.” In September, he mocked how Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush were pretending to be nice to each other: “But it’s political bullshit, do you understand?” And in November, he said of ISIS, “I would bomb the shit out of ’em.”
Finally, in December, Trump made headlines for using an entirely different S-word. Speaking of Hillary Clinton’s defeat to Barack Obama in the 2008 primaries, he said, “She was favored to win and she got schlonged.” Trump improbably claimed that schlonged wasn’t vulgar, but as I wrote in Politico last week, this Trumpism is clearly rooted in a Yiddish vulgarity for “penis.” (Trump didn’t invent the verb form, however; as I note in the Politico piece, schlong meaning ‘defeat soundly’ is attested back to 1967 in New York City usage.)
Of course, profanity has been potent in political protest as well. Trump got a taste of his own sweary medicine in a video by the group Deport Racism starring U.S.-born Latino kids saying things like “Fuck you, racist fuck.”
Meanwhile, across the pond, an anti-austerity protest in the UK featured a properly Tuckeresque banner.
Best Fucking Sports-Related Swearing
In April, Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price went on a rant against the reporters covering his team. In five and a half minutes, he used variants of fuck 77 times and variants of shit 11 times, according to a count by the Cincinnati Enquirer.
The audio above is censored, but Deadspin posted this transcript:
Ah, fuck. I’m just, I’m fucking pissing up a rope in this fucking business. Because everyone has to know everything all the fucking time. That’s not my fucking obligation, it’s not their obligation. You know why fucking Billy Hamilton didn’t fucking play? The other day? Because his fucking finger’s hurt and he couldn’t hit right-handed comfortably. Right? So that’s something that I need to know and no one else needs to know. No one else needs to fucking know it, and all of a sudden it’s out there. His fucking fingers are sore. It doesn’t benefit us. It wasn’t from you, but it doesn’t benefit us one bit to fucking announce to the fucking other teams that we’re playing to bring in lefties when they need to fucking get Billy out. There’s no benefit. So, I’m fucking, to be honest with you, I’m fucking sick of this shit. I’m sick of listening to this fucking shit, I’m sick of fucking the fucking second-guessing bullshit, you guys can do whatever the fuck you want, but I’ll tell you this — I’m not going to fucking tell you everything about this fucking club, because you fucking guys are going to out there and sniff it out anyway. I don’t fucking like it one fucking bit. I bend over backwards to be honest and direct with you fucking guys and you stick it right up my fucking ass — and the fucking team’s ass. And I’m sick of it. What do you got? If you don’t got anything, get out and I’ll do this fucking interview with Marty. You don’t have anything? Just get out, please.
Best Fucking TV Swearing
John Oliver takes the prize for his epic rant on HBO’s Last Week Tonight after the Paris attacks in November.
Runners-up: John Oliver gets to let it all hang out, language-wise, on HBO, but the sweary creators of the CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend should get special recognition for the online-only explicit versions of the show’s musical numbers, as Nancy Friedman noted in a sweary links roundup. Also worthy of note is the CBC’s Schitt’s Creek (now in its second season), which has managed to avoid censorship of its title, even in the New York Times. (More from Nancy here.)
Best Fucking Movie Swearing
Despite extremely profanity-laden source material, The Martian maintained a PG-13 rating by limiting the obscenities, with only two spoken instances of fuck (though the word is also mouthed and partially typed). But one of the movie’s most memorable lines is suitably sweary: “I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this.”
For more on the “X the shit out of Y” construction (also seen in Trump’s “bomb the shit out of ’em”), see my post from September shortly before the film’s release (the line had already featured prominently in the trailers).
Runners-up: Of the R-rated releases in 2015, two were particularly heavy on the F-bombs: Straight Outta Compton with 293 (1.99/minute) and Black Mass with 234 (1.92/minute). But those still lag far behind 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street, with 569 (3.16/minute). (Stats from Wikipedia.)
Best Fucking Data Analysis
Jack Grieve, lecturer in forensic linguistics at Aston University in Birmingham, UK, showed the power of big-fucking-data by creating maps of the United States revealing regional patterns of swearing preferences based on an 8.9-billion-word corpus of geo-coded tweets.
See Stan Carey’s post, “Mapping the United Swears of America,” for more.
Runners-up: A three-way tie: Oliver Roeder of FiveThirtyEight for his catalog of swearing in Quentin Tarantino movies, Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal for his analysis of swearing frequency by coaches and managers (including the Reds’ Bryan Price), and Philip Bump of the Washington Post for his roundup of curse words in Donald Trump’s tweets.
Best Fucking Sweary Branding
Trademark expert Anne Gilson LaLonde joined Strong Language as a regular contributor in November, and she kicked things off with a post explaining how the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approved the trademark for Nut Sack Double Brown Ale, from Engine 15 Brewing Company.
Runners-up: Anne previously filled us in on a trademark that did not fare so well with the USPTO: F**K PROJECT, for leather and imitation leather goods. Meanwhile, north of the border, a Saskatoon distillery is having trouble with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office because of its attempt to uphold a trademark for Lucky Bastard Vodka.
Best Fucking (Near-)Sweary Advertising
Advertisers often play with the boundaries of acceptable language, as with TV commercials that intentionally bleep out words. Print advertising sometimes relies on near-sweary puns. In April, Nancy Friedman blogged about a full-page ad for Adobe Document Cloud in the New York Times, showing some paperwork overlaid with the words “THIS IS BULL SHEET.”
Runner-up: In a similarly punny vein, Pizza Hut promoted its new Hot Dog Bites Pizza with a tweet reading “Fork yeah.”
Of course, some would argue that a pizza with 28 hot dogs baked into the crust is obscene enough on its own.
Late update: Lest these awards seem a bit too U.S.-centric, let’s finish with a special royal Tucker for Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and devoted husband to Queen Elizabeth, still cursing up a storm at 94. Here he is in July, at a 75th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Britain, telling a photographer, “Just take the fucking picture.”