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News & views

Curse of blankety blank

[30 November 2011] We’ve come a long way since novels used to give
‘d——’ for ‘damn’ and ‘z——’ for ‘zounds’ (God’s wounds), but a Jottings pet hate is newspapers that blank out the ****ing swear words in their quotations from slebs, footie stars and politicos. It has three annoying effects.

First it’s often hard to know what the supposedly offensive words are supposed to be. For example, the Daily Mail says that in Andrew Rawnsley’s new book the former prime minister Gordon Brown’s pals are called ‘****** ***** trying to stitch up Alistair’ by Maggie Darling, wife of the former chancellor of the exchequer. Now ‘bloody shits’ fits the number of asterisks but since no newspaper would blank out ‘bloody’ nowadays, surely it can’t be that?

Second, you can’t tell whether the quoted source has blanked out the words or whether it’s the newspaper that’s trying to protect our sensitive minds.

Third – and this is the worst – it makes all readers go through the litany of rude words they know to see which ones might fit. And that makes everyone curse, quite literally, which seems to defeat the object. Anyway, I can’t figure out from the Daily Telegraph’s report of 20 October – which uses hyphens not asterisks, just to be different – what naughty words the assistant head of an Essex school is supposed to have Twittered. She described herself as a ‘lazy ----’; complained about the ‘80s ----’ playing on the radio while she was stuck in traffic; and asked ‘Who wants to go and get ------?’.

The school is investigating, but surely it will just prove she’s been watching too many episodes of the fictional series ‘Waterloo Road’ or the documentary ‘Educating Essex’. [MC]

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