Words are powerful things.
So much so that society constructs laws to define which words can and can't be said to other people and in what circumstances.
We can't write the word c**t or rather, we can, but we have to use those asterisks. You know what the word is, you've just said it in your head, but we can't write it. We're not sure why we can't spell it out, but can asterisk it, or whose sensibilities are being protected by this obfuscation or why whoever that is gets such preferential treatment.
But there it is. F**k it.
In our view, this is somewhat pathetic given the context we're writing them in. This is not a report of the local vicar's Sunday sermon, where it would be incongruous to see such words. "And lo the prophet did say unto the heathens, 'truly my son, you are a f*****g c**t'."
As anyone reading the court reports this week will know, there is a lot of swearing in football. We doubt many people will be shocked by this - however, many have been genuinely amazed at how puerile the 'banter' is; more suited to 14-year-olds than grown men. It is further proof that football, perhaps especially at the high levels, allows and encourages many of its participants to remain as young, silly boys. In this world, my dad is bigger than your dad is still active social currency...or perhaps that should be 'my latest step-dad is bigger than the bloke that is currently bunked up with your dirty mother.'
When we watch football on TV we are all aware of the swearing, whether it's the players insulting each other or the crowd chanting various obscenities. Does it bother us? No.
The fact that football media on TV and in the press doesn't use 'bad' language at all has always struck us as somewhat odd. Clearly, standards have to be maintained but allowing a pundit to say "that was a f***ing disgrace" after a bad penalty call, would only be appropriate and would sometimes better express our collective feelings.
But it is never allowed. Indeed, if a mild expletive slips from phone-in callers' lips, apologies are issued all-round to those who might have been offended. This has never seemed sensible. Surely, it is the content and meaning of words that might offend and not the choice of words per se. You can insult without using swear words and you can compliment using swear words. But when it comes to broadcasting, it seems meaning is less important than expression. So you can say someone is a useless fool without censure, but not a useless tw*t.
But is that really any worse? Is being called a fool more acceptable? Who is to say and based on what, exactly?
For some reason, even the most rigid and disapproving of our newspapers are quoting from the Terry court report that he had called Ferdinand "a knobhead", with the word written out full. We have seen an "arse" where "s**t" feared to tread, and "crap" often pops up where "s**t" is deemed not right. It is confusing. It could be that those people who think that total strangers, in this case footballers, should be role models for their children are once again being treated, not with the hooting contempt and disdain that is their due, but with deference.
This is not a call for unfettered swearing though. For any words to maintain their power, their use must be selective and not become part of everyday sentence construction. There is nothing more annoying than talking to someone who uses f*** every fourth word in every f*****g sentence, you know what we f*****g mean?
We are calling, then, for a one expletive allowance per pundit, per match. We strongly believe that if Mark Lawrenson is hating a match as badly as he seems to be, he should be allowed to say: "This Greece match is f***ing boring." And Alan Hansen should be permitted to assess some defending with: "Terrible defending, look at the space between the centre halves, totally undisciplined. What a bunch of c***s." Any more than one swear per game, and it's their match fee in the swearbox. If Alan wants to fork over 40 grand for an additional "cock-smoking twot-bubble" then that is his choice entirely, all proceeds to charity.
John Nicholson and Alan Tyers
Alan's book is called 'Gin And Juice: The Victorian Guide To Parenting' and you can check it out here.
And read John's book, 'The Meat Fix.'