Fuck, shit, bollocks, twat, bloody, and cunt are not the seven words you can never say on television – they’re six words that Susie Dent has said on television. Susie Dent’s Guide to Swearing, a new mini-series from Channel 4, offers an informative and irreverent summary of the history and use of some of our favourite bad words. You can watch the full series below.
A word-history specialist and broadcaster, Dent has written several books on language, most recently Dent’s Modern Tribes. She is best known as the resident lexicographer in ‘dictionary corner’ on Countdown, a perennially popular British TV game show. We can’t not mention that Countdown inadvertently produces the odd rude word to great general amusement.
Though she went to a convent school and was not allowed to swear at home (aside from an occasional bloody that ‘managed to fly below the radar’), Dent tells me she didn’t rebel into foulmouthedness. She loves swear words but doesn’t swear often – except at moments of stress or pain, when it ‘most definitely helps’. There’s a word for that:
We’ve featured swearing montages from video games; now here’s one from TV.
Even if you’ve never seen Sharpe (I haven’t), that won’t stop you enjoying Sean Bean uttering oaths from it non-stop for 7½ minutes – mostly bastard, bloody, bugger and damn, with crap, arse, piss, prick and twat entering the fray near the end and culminating in this mighty outburst:
What an idiot. What a dirty little Dutch buffle-brained bastard. I’ll ram his poxed crown up his royal poxed arse. The blue-blooded twat.
The Wikipedia page for the episodic video game Life Is Strange says reviewers praised its ‘tackling of taboo subjects’ but ‘disliked the slang’. Straddling these areas is swearing, of which the game makes frequent and impressive use. I haven’t played Life Is Strange but I know about its taboo language, because someone has helpfully compiled a 5½-minute rapid-fire montage of all the swears in the game.
You’ll hear the usual suspects (shit, fuck, ass, dick) and derivatives galore including several X-ass compounds (musty-ass, rusty-ass…), along with creative infixation (what-the-fuck-ever) and modern spins like fuck your selfie, viral slut, bro-holes, and stepdouche. One phrase, knocked on my ass by that dick, recalls Team America’s infamous swear-speech.
Snakes on a Plane was, if nothing else, a success of marketing over, well, every other aspect of filmmaking. Even those who resisted watching it are likely to be familiar with a line from Samuel L. Jackson, so successfully did it percolate into pop culture (video NSFW; assume the same throughout):
It’s a good line and a great delivery, but family-friendly it ain’t. So as a happy consequence it was dubbed for TV into the wonderful non sequitur ‘monkey-fightin’ snakes on this Monday-to-Friday plane’ (and with fuckin’ softened to freakin’):
Swearing in songs, as in speech, is used in all sorts of ways and for all kinds of reasons. I won’t even try to be representative here, even of a single genre in a given era. This is the first sweary songs post on Strong Language but it won’t be the last. Some of the tracks featured will be very sweary, others minimally so or only suggestive, but you should assume all audio is VFNSFW (very fucking not suitable for work).
First up is an a cappella song so sweet and jaunty you could almost play it in the company of your old-fashioned in-laws – as long as they didn’t listen too closely to the words. It’s the dangerously catchy ‘Rotten Cocksuckers’ Ball’ by ’50s doo-wop group The Clovers. Sample lyric:
Cocksuckin’ Sammy get your motherfuckin’ mammy,
We’re goin’ downtown to the Cocksuckers’ Ball.
Fuck, suck and fight, till beginning of the broad daylight.