Bad Science posts BBC’s official list of swear words, ranked by severity for 1998 and 2000.
While most of the top five are predictable, I didn’t know that “wanker” was such a bad thing in the UK. I certainly hear the word often enough in BritComs.
In addition, there were a few other surprises:
- The “N” word shot up from 11th in ’98 to 5th in 2000. I’d be interested to know if it is deemed more offensive or less offensive after seven years of rap music and movies shoving it down our collective throats.
- Calling someone a “bastard” is more offensive than calling a woman a “whore” or “twat”. I figure that must come from Britain’s long tradition of noble lineage and going to wars over that sort of thing. Or maybe they’re just an island full of misogynists.
- Telling someone to “piss off” is more offensive to Brits than taking the Lord’s name in vain (or exclaiming “Jesus Christ”). A sign of declining religion in Europe, no doubt.
- Calling someone a “Paki” is more than twice as offensive as calling someone a “Jew”. I assume that “Jew” would be used in a derogatory rather than descriptive fashion (otherwise it’s not really offensive), so is this because more Pakistanis than Jews were included in the survey? Or do they just hate Jews? And what about others from the long list of ethnic slurs?
- While a few racial epitaphs make the list, there are no homophobic prohibitions (e.g., ”faggot”, “homo”, “gay”, “poofster”, “dyke”). Perhaps gay rights aren’t the big deal in UK as they are here?
- “Spastic”? Must be a UK thing, ’cause we called each other “spaz” all the time when I was a kid.
- “Slag” has no meaning in America outside of metal working.
- “Crap” makes the list, yet “damn” and “cocksucker” are nowhere to be found. Now that I think of it, “tits” (made famous by George Carlin in his list of seven dirty words) doesn’t appear either.