On this week’s edition of BBC Radio’s Moral Maze, we discussed the morality of swearing.
Research from the British Board of Film Classification suggests that six in ten of us are now comfortable using swear words. One third of us have a greater propensity for profanity than five years ago. Is this a cause for concern?
Those for whom hearing foul language makes them feel profoundly uncomfortable regard the use of such taboo words as inherently violent, aggressive and disrespectful. Those who are more relaxed about it think four-letter words serve a useful function as catharsis for anger or frustration — and may even be culturally enriching.
Why have some strong obscenities become more acceptable while giving offence to various groups has become less acceptable? How do we negotiate a public discourse in which everyone draws their own lines about the acceptability of swearing?
My fellow panellists were Giles Fraser, Mona Siddiqui and Anne McElvoy. Our witnesses were journalist Peter Hitchens; Rebecca Roache, senior lecturer in philosophy at Royal Holloway, University of London; Dame Esther Rantzen, broadcaster and founder of ChildLine; and Simon Donald, who describes himself as an “internationally renowned lavatory humourist”.
If you can access BBC Sounds, you can listen to the programme here.
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