Skimming social media recently, I came across posts reporting the death of R&B singer Billy “The Kid” Emerson at the age of 97. Though he would later renounce secular music and become a preacher, Emerson had a great run as a singer and songwriter in the 1950s, signing to Sun Records in its heyday. While Emerson never achieved the fame of labelmates like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash, some of his songs have endured as rockabilly standards, perhaps most notably “Red Hot.” Emerson wrote and recorded “Red Hot” for Sun in 1955, though his single didn’t crack the charts.
“Red Hot” would become more famous when it was covered in 1957 by another Sun act, Billy Lee Riley & The Little Green Men. From there it entered the repertoire of many rockers, including the Beatles, who can be heard playing “Red Hot” in recordings at Hamburg’s Star Club in 1962.
“Red Hot” features Emerson’s immortal call-and-response refrain:
My gal is red hot Your gal ain’t doodly-squat
Doodly-squat (meaning ‘nothing/anything at all’ or ‘an insignificant amount’) might seem like a mild topic for Strong Language, but there’s a lot going on under the surface of that frivolous-sounding word. The Oxford English Dictionary surmises that the doodly part comes from doodle as a slang term for ‘excrement,’ and the squat part comes from the use of that word as a verb meaning ‘to void excrement.’Over time, doodly-squat would get eclipsed by the variant diddly-squat, which the OED calls a “probably euphemistic” alteration. Both doodly-squat and diddly-squat, as well as plain old squat, are prime examples of what linguists have called “vulgar minimizers” or “squatitives” (more on that later).
With another year in the books, it’s time once again here on Strong Language for our annual salute to excellent swearing. As time marches on, we’ve had the opportunity to anoint sweary winners for eight years running now. (Check out our past roundups from 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021.) As always, we pay homage with these awards to the patron saint of Strong Language: Malcolm Tucker, the ultra-foulmouthed political operative portrayed with panache by Peter Capaldi on the BBC series The Thick of It and its cinematic spinoff In the Loop.
A year ago, we took note of the song “F2020” by the trio Avenue Beat, with the lyrics, “Lowkey fuck 2020 / I don’t know about everybody else / But I think that I am kinda done / Can we just get to 2021? (Please).” Well, be careful what you wish for. After another fucking exhausting year, it’s time once again for Strong Language to recognize the annual achievements in swearing. Hard to believe, but this is the seventh year that we’ve given out the Tucker Awards for sweary excellence. (No shit: here are the roundups from 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.) As we never tire of explaining, the awards are named in honor of the patron saint of Strong Language, Malcolm Tucker, the profane political spinmeister brought to life by Peter Capaldi in the BBC series The Thick of It and the movie spinoff In the Loop.
Even though The Thick of It has been off the air since 2012, Tucker’s spirit lives on. Last April, when the Scottish tabloid The Daily Record reported on a study by the marketing agency Reboot naming Glasgow the UK’s sweariest city, they proudly featured a photo of Glasgow’s own Capaldi-as-Tucker.
Who knows what kind of Glaswegian invective Tucker would have hurled at the terribleness of the past year, but let’s see who swore it best in 2021.
Oh, 2020, you’re finally over. And that can mean only one thing: it’s time to award the annual Strong Language honors for excellence in swearing. This is the sixth year that we’ve bestowed the highly prestigious Tucker Awards. (You can take a walk down memory lane by checking out our previous roundups, from 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.) Regular readers will know that the awards are named in honor of the patron saint of Strong Language, Malcolm Tucker, the super-sweary political spin doctor played by Peter Capaldi in the BBC series The Thick of It and the film In the Loop.
Even though series creator Armando Iannucci continues to maintain that The Thick of It won’t be making a comeback, Tucker’s spirit was alive and well in 2020. In fact, a clip from the show, with Tucker declaring “a fucking lockdown” in the office, was used as a public-service announcement by the BBC back in March soon after the U.K. government announced the first stay-at-home order of the pandemic.
With the calendar turning on another year (and another decade), it’s time once again for the annual Strong Language honors for excellence in swearing. For the past half-decade, Strong Language has been on the scene, tracking all the highlights in low language. (Check out our previous roundups from 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.) As always, the awards are named in honor of the patron saint of Strong Language, Malcolm Tucker, the endlessly quotable antihero played by Peter Capaldi in the BBC political satire The Thick of It and the film followup In the Loop.
Lately, Capaldi has reunited with Armando Iannucci, the creator of The Thick of It (as well as the equally sweary Veep) in the new film The Personal History of David Copperfield. Even though a different Dickensian adaptation, BBC One’s A Christmas Carol, managed to slip in some swearing, Capaldi’s Mr. Micawber is obscenity-free, so we’ll have to keep the spirit of Malcolm Tucker alive ourselves. As Malcolm would say, come the fuck in or fuck the fuck off.