07 Jan 2005

How many swear words can dance on the head of a pin?

Returning to the Jerry Springer: The Opera ‘controversy’, let’s take a brief look at one of the siller claims being put out by the pro-censorship brigade. The Sun Says (via Tim):

The film of the hit West End show, about the cult US chat show host, includes the “F” word 3,168 times and the “C” word 297 times.

Of course, by an sensible reckoning it doesn’t - there are actually 96 ‘F words’ and 9 ‘C words’ in the show, but by the mystic powers granted them by the spirit of Mary Whitehouse, it seems you can multiply those by the number of people in the cast (33) to come up with a suitably alarming number. But, if you’re going to go that far off the path of sanity, why stop there? As each word can now be counted for every time it’s used in chorus, surely each separate broadcast should count as well? After all, each of them will involve a separate emission of the offending word into the world, so surely that number ought to be multiplied by the number of TV sets it’s shown on.

If we assume a million people watch the programme, at an average of around 2 per TV set, that gives us a grand total of 1,584,000,000 ‘F words’ and 148,500,000 ‘C words’ being sent out into the poor unprotected ears of the people of Britain who have never, ever, heard language like that in any other part of their daily lives - not even those who work for The Sun. And remember that those figures don’t include any possibility of the broadcast being picked up by aliens in deep space at some unspecified point in the future, or even that they should probably all be doubled as many people believe that their personal invisible imaginary friend is everywhere at all times, so he/she/it will have to hear every single one of the billion or so usages. Frankly, if civilisation as we know it hasn’t collapsed by Sunday morning, I’ll be very surprised.

Nick got away with this at 11:55 am


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  1. On the subject of people never hearing language like that at The Sun, I refer you back to this anecdote. True, it’s from the Kelvin McKenzie era, but I somehow doubt the atmosphere has become more ladylike now that gorgeous pouting Rebekah Wade is in charge.

    Comment by Michael — 07 Jan 2005 @ 12:41 pm

  2. I’m sworn to secrecy over details, but Bloggerheads did have a man inside at one stage. We don’t anymore.

    A pity. It would be just grand to do an official count of swear words during your typical day at The Sun.

    Comment by Tim Ireland — 07 Jan 2005 @ 2:24 pm

  3. I think they should get Radio 2 to do a simultaneous broadcast, but with all the swearing bleeped out - or better yet replaced with innocuous alternatives voiced over by drunk homeless people.

    Comment by James Graham — 07 Jan 2005 @ 3:38 pm

  4. Or they could show a censored version on BBC2 and an unexpurgated version on BBC3/4 - thus killing two birds with one stone by appearing to pay lip service to the forces of taste and decency while simultaneously ensuring a huge ratings increase on digital channels whose existence they’re still trying to justify.

    I can’t believe BBC3 is showing anything particularly important at the same time - every time I tune in, it’s usually a repeat of Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps.

    Comment by Michael — 07 Jan 2005 @ 3:49 pm

  5. Two Pints is definitely the most offensive thing on TV at the moment. I can feel my brain melting every time I accidently watch it. Isn’t it interesting how the moral guardians out there always go to war over sex and violence, but never over brainlessness?

    Comment by James Graham — 08 Jan 2005 @ 12:53 am

  6. I swear I didn’t check this before commenting earlier, but BBC3 is indeed showing Two Pints during Jerry Springer The Opera!

    Comment by Michael — 08 Jan 2005 @ 7:02 pm

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