Speaker: Mark Worden (Standard British accent)
Jonathon Green is a world authority on English slang and he is the author of the three-volume Green’s Dictionary of Slang. He is also an expert on swear words and we asked him about two of the English language’s most famous examples:
Jonathon Green (Standard British accent)
There’s a huge double standard that, you know, every time somebody famous, a politician, some kind of star, says “fuck” in public, in... in a certain environment, say on... on a BBC programme, I get rung up, “Er! Er! Er! What do you think? You know, we’ve got the Clean English Society here, we’d like you to come and debate with them,” and I say, “I don’t debate: slang is slang, you know, whatever, I don’t have...” but what I... and I was asked by Australian TV... radio... I was asked by the... The Sydney Morning Herald this morning: “Do you think the C word will ever become mainstream?” And I said, “Well, certainly not in my lifetime!” I don’t think it... it’s very strange, that particular word, which never came... although it seems to have been in general use in Middle English, which means before 1450, it was the only one of the canonical obscenities not to make it through the... make it through that, it... it was already being deemed not acceptable, although it was in street names, the famous ”Gropecunt Lane,” and it was used in a treatise on surgery: “You will fix the this to the cunt, de-dah, de-dah, de-dah” and so on, but it never made it through. I think people are... you know, I’ve asked people about this, and I’ve asked them in France as well, and no one really, you know... it’s... it’s one of those things that The Guardian and The Independent, in other words the liberal press, will print the word “fuck,” but they tend to prefer only to print it as quoted, they won’t print, they... I don’t think they like their columnists to use it that much. The Sun and The Mirror will never print it at all. And it’s that... and yet they’ll run headlines in which the elbow is nudging into your ribs so hard that they break! I mean, it’s... and it’s as if... I mean, I don’t know how to say this without... without sounding snobbish, it’s not that, but it’s as if somehow the working classes, who are the people most likely to be enunciating these words, are, in some strange way, to be protected from them. I mean, it’s such bullshit!
(Jonathon Green was talking to Mark Worden)