i Editor's Letter: Sensitivity over swearing


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The Independent Online


The fuss over that rogue off-camera expletive on BBC Breakfast this week drew a wry smile here. It was a case of "there but for the grace of God goes i". It's remarkable how many letters we continue to receive about our policy on swear words – or the lack of them. As we are continuing to enjoy sales growth and many of you are new to us, it is worth reiterating.

Some readers write to lament our coyness and over-sensitivity in ****ing out certain words, others to berate us for either occasionally forgetting or not applying ****s to a wide enough range of words. Most recently, it was the blessed Deborah Ross and her use of the made-up word "pisseth", which you may or may not think is funny, but offensive?

Times change, boundaries of taste shift – who today finds "bloody" offensive? The Guardian does spell out curses, others do not. However, there is still a sense of what is and is not acceptable. We know you all know what the words we **** out actually are, and you might use them yourselves. A good few can be heard here regularly – although perhaps not as often as upstairs at the Daily Mail.

But do we need to share them with you? Especially as we have had success in attracting schools to subscribe. And yes, I know that children in those very schools know and use the words too, but, hey, they can use their imaginations.

We will never please all of you. Half will agree with Mark Twain that "profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer" while others take the Alexander Pope view: that "to swear is neither brave, polite, nor wise".