Potty mouths in the moral maze

Should we be concerned that so many people are turning the air blue?

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.

Recent posts

Premium subscribers can read my most recent recent exclusive post, on how the world’s most important Islamic reformer is airbrushed out of the shallow western picture, by clicking here.

And you can see my most recent post that’s available to everyone, on how Boris Johnson’s planet-sized mind appears to have turned to mush, if you click here.

One more thing…

This is how my website works.

It has two subscription levels: my free service and the premium service.

Anyone can sign up to the free service on this website. You can of course unsubscribe at any time by clicking “unsubscribe” at the foot of each email.

Everyone on the free list will receive the full text of pieces I write for outlets such as the Jewish News Syndicate and the Jewish Chronicle, as well as other posts and links to my broadcasting work.

But why not subscribe to my premium service? For that you’ll also receive pieces that I write specially for my premium subscribers. Those articles will not be published elsewhere. They’ll arrive in your inbox as soon as I have written them.

There is a monthly fee of $6.99 for the premium service, or $70 for an annual subscription. Although the fee is charged in US dollars, you can sign up with any credit card. Just click on the “subscribe now” button below to see the available options for subscribing either to the premium or the free service.

A note on subscriptions

If you purchase a subscription to my site, you will be authorising a payment to my company Dirah Associates. In the past, that is the name that may have appeared on your credit card statement. In future, though, the charge should appear instead as Melanie Phillips.

And thank you for following my work.

Subscribe now