Bad language

July 13, 2009

NSFMMTR (not safe for my mum to read)

I like language.

I’m quite fond of bad language too. I was a reporter, after all, and in most news rooms “Fuck You” is considered witty banter and/or a jovial greeting between peers.

And so it was that I was very angry to discover a journalist was fired for telling an editor to fuck off. But that was some time ago. I no longer mutter “motherfucker” under my breath when I think of it (arse).

Today’s lesson: swearing is good for you, particularly when you bang your head on the upper bunk while tucking in your four year old daughter/comedian/mimic.

It’s true. Scientific America told me.

“The study, published today in the journal NeuroReport, measured how long college students could keep their hands immersed in cold water. During the chilly exercise, they could repeat an expletive of their choice or chant a neutral word. When swearing, the 67 student volunteers reported less pain and on average endured about 40 seconds longer”.

I find the longer the string of words, the happier I feel.

Sadly, I’ve also discovered that some people view swearing in the same light they view kicking small dogs: that is, it’s not for polite company.

Interestingly, I work in an open plan office very near the boss, surrounded by accountants and people who have corporate jobs. They’ve never worked for an angry red-faced man with a too-tight collar and a bad tie who ate junior reporters for breakfast and spat out the pips onto the newsroom floor. Neither have I but they all think I did (either that or that I secretly ran away to sea many years ago and instead of a tattoo or syphililis, came home with a Vocabulary).

Still, they’re learning. I swear (ha) I saw someone taking notes during my last outburst. It went something like this:

and was a sight to behold.

EDIT: Asshole! Embedding not allowed? Wah? Huh? WTF? KMA, MF!

take that!

As I was saying, the boss doesn’t seem to mind. He seems to quite enjoy it at times.

One of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman, has of course already stolen the best title for this blog post – Warning: Contains language. The bastard.

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That is astounding… I remember one editor and his pet sub in particular who wouldn’t leave copy alone… to the point where the reporters would
sneak back into the database after the sub had been at it and change stuff back.

My favourite booboo was her changing “iwi” (a word she was unfamiliar with) to “kiwi”. No, really. I caught that one before it went into print.

However the sub prevailed on the editor to make some changes so that she could change our copy and we would be none the wiser… He dutifully
introduced a field to the database wherein he and she could discuss the stories without any input from the reporters whatsoever. When I figured
out what was going on I blew my stack in a spectacular fashion (no typewriters were harmed however) and my only regret is that I invoked
Godwin’s Law by saying “At least in Nazi Germany they knew who the villains were!”

But nobody got fired, least of all me.

Surely robust editorial discussions should be encouraged? Why do today’s editors seem determined to winkle out those “prickly bastards” who make
their life difficult? Aren’t they the ones who are out there making their stories prickly as well?