The GuardianThe Guardian

OMG! Is swearing still taboo?

09 Feb 2023 · 9 min read

Editor's Note

“Mummy, get me out of this f***ing highchair.” In work meetings — and elsewhere — the F-word in increasingly commonplace. The Guardian asks whether swearing has lost it power to offend.

If it were the 14th century, your name was Robert Clevecunt and you lived on Pissing Alley, you wouldn’t have hesitated to tell anyone your name or address. Such words were common enough to be unremarkable. It is easily offended 21st-century humans who would change our name by deed poll and lobby the council to change its road signs.

However, we may be becoming more relaxed about swearwords. It was reported last week that an employment judge, presiding over a case of unfair dismissal and discrimination, had decided that using the phrase “I don’t give a fuck” in a “tense” meeting was not necessarily significant. “The words allegedly used in our view are fairly commonplace and do not carry the shock value they might have done in another time,” said the judge.

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