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What will this day be like...I wonder?

Eddie Mair | 07:10 UK time, Friday, 9 March 2007

Which reminds me that Julie Andrews book is still sitting on my desk. We must give it as a prize to someone. I'll try to organise a premium rate phone line.

A word in your ear: next week on the blog, Nils Blythe, our business guru and thoroughly decent person, will be reporting from an as yet undisclosed location...and just as Hugh Sykes kindly put himself at your disposal, so will Nils. Be nice.

By the time we got off the air last night, we'd had only one email from a listener concerned at our repeated use of the word "bastard" in the Patrick Mercer story. Many others urged us to say it more often...naughty!

But it does raise something that concerns us all the time - use of language. For example, on the Sunshine post there's a discussion about how we refer to the act of dying. As far as "bastard" was concerned, the listener who complained said she didn't expect her three children who were listening to have to hear that sort of thing on PM and she turned off. Why didn't we bleep out the word, she asked.

It put me in mind of a story a while back in which audio recorded on a mobile phone of an allegedly racist incident was at the heart of a big story. The language was very strong....with F's and C's and more. We thought it was worth playing the audio (with bleeps) but we were deluged with complaints. Most people argued that the PM audience is mature enough to deal with sunch language, and that we rendered their understanding of the audio meaningless with our beeps.

I don't raise that example to equate the two cases...or to say that the woman who emailed is wrong...she may be right. Was it necessary to hear the word, and if so, quite so often? It was something we talked about last night after the programme in the Glass Box....a facility which will be appearing on the Blog in some form soon.


  1. At 07:48 AM on 09 Mar 2007, Gareth wrote:

    An interesting conundrum Eddie - and not in the Vorderman sense... PM is not a show that children would be begging their parents to listen to (although if you could develop that marketing strand...) and as such is designed to be for adult ears, and adult ears are, for the most part, supposed to be less tender than younger ones.

    At the same time, I was bought up in a household where PM was on in the background every teatime (bring back the theme I say). So I would say second division swearing such as was used last night is fine - nothing they don't hear in the playground - but the premiership does still need to be bleeped out.

    Leave the dirty words till 'The World Tonight'... they are a rougher sort of people at 10...

  2. At 08:39 AM on 09 Mar 2007, Lewis wrote:

    Speaking for just me, I'd like to hear the words that are actually said unbeeped, even before 6pm. I might not use them all, but when I do swear it's not related to the time of day after all.

    That said, I do remember listening to PM as a child too, and I suspect my parents might have been rather less tolerant in those long gone days than I am now. One obvious option would be to add a comment before hand that "there is strong language in this 3 minute piece that is uncensored" or similar - and give the concerned parent a short time to turn off, shoo the kids away or whatever they decide is appropriate.

    Giving the duration of the piece will also let them bring the kids back, or turn the radio back on or whatever.

  3. At 08:48 AM on 09 Mar 2007, Fearless Fred wrote:

    I pity the poor womans' children. They probably want to listen to Radio 1 anyway, (sorry Eddie, but I doubt even you would be able to get the under 18s to listen to PM).

    As for language, I think it's worth playing it in full with a word of warning beforehand. After all, how are we expected to understand the report in its' entirity if we haven't head the piece itself.

    oh, and no bleeping I find it f*bleep*ing annoying!

  4. At 09:03 AM on 09 Mar 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    Yes, I agree with Lewis. Depending upon the severity of the language, a relevant warning might help parents, or those who might be offended. At least that way you're covering your back.

    It is, however, interesting that this particular word should cause offence to anyone other than the person to whom it is directed. And, in today's culture, it hardly has any significance, does it?

  5. At 09:17 AM on 09 Mar 2007, Val P wrote:

    What will this day be like... I wonder?

    I can tell you now it'll be bleeping miserable in our house, because once again we failed in our miserable quest to buy weekend camping tickets for T in the P*rk. After a frantic scrabble a couple of weeks ago when they put 40,000 on sale (we were unlucky), today they released another 5,000, and this time they sold out in 7 minutes it would seem. As I said last time we went through this palaver, TD is desolate as this month she finally reaches the magic age when we said she could go....but we can't get the bleeping tickets for her birthday present! If any of you kind people of influence out there have a couple to spare, I might even consider entering a competition or ringing a premium rate phone number (Eddie, please note) to get hold of them??

  6. At 09:21 AM on 09 Mar 2007, Simon wrote:

    Although I wouldn't want my five year old marching around the house shouting spite like Viz's Rude Kid, I do do wonder about the relative importance we attach to this.

    Scott Adams, author of the Dilbert cartoon strip, puts it very well:

    'You might wonder how dangerous it is to expose children to curse words. I have never seen a scientific study on this topic but it’s easy to calculate the danger. For example, parents let children ride bicycles on the street. But parents do not allow children to hear vulgar words. Therefore we can deduce that cursing is more dangerous than being hit by a car.

    I’ve also never seen any first aid instructions for vulgarity-related injuries to children. Are you supposed to apply a tourniquet to the kid’s neck so the curse word doesn’t spread from his brain to the rest of his body? Or do you give mouth-to-ear and try to suck the vulgarity out of the toddler’s head? Or do I treat it the same way I treat all other first aid situations, i.e. flag down someone else and yell “I’ll call 911 while you administer the first aid!”'


  7. At 09:23 AM on 09 Mar 2007, Perky wrote:

    Eddie - my kids were too busy on the trampoline to be worried by the language in the Patrick Mercer piece, but it did sound too me like you were really quite enjoying the opportunity to say "bastard" repeatedly. Would it have anything to do with the sheer quantity of radios and tin foil that you go around confiscating after dark?

  8. At 09:50 AM on 09 Mar 2007, Belinda wrote:

    Certainly by the end of the episode, I could hear a certain glee present in the repeated use of the word.

    Boringly, I rather agree with everyone else. Bleeping out the word would have been ridiculous, this isn't American prime-time. A warning may have been nice in case people have children or parrots, but as you were simply repeating what a prominent MP had said himself, then the 'blame' for the word on radio couldn't be attributed to you directly.

    That. coupled with the reading out of the John Inman joke, made it the kind of programme that the Daily Mail would hate.

  9. At 09:52 AM on 09 Mar 2007, Jason Good wrote:

    Sunch language?

    As spoken after roast beef and the trimmings at the end (or start) of the week?

  10. At 09:53 AM on 09 Mar 2007, Annasee wrote:

    I always have PM on at tea time, so the 9 yr old gets to hear it , or leave the room. I don't know how closely she listens - but occasionally we get questions about what's being said, so a certain amount obviously percolates through.

    The night, months ago, when someone (Nigel?) interviewed Jacqueline Wilson, daughter was absolutely riveted by every word. Spellbound. Definitely family entertainment that night.

    She heard Eddie's tour de force of "bastards" last night, but didn't comment at the time. Confirmed today that she'd heard it, & that it was not a word for children to use, or anyone else in polite company. I don't think it's any big deal. Children will hear such language, the main thing is that they know not to bring it out again when they shouldn't!

    Btw - has whoever makes up the audio clips done a compilation of the total "bastard"s from last night yet, Eddie? And if not, why not?

  11. At 09:55 AM on 09 Mar 2007, patricia Eliott wrote:

    I have read with interest the comments above. I also listened to the first few minutes of yesterdays PM programme before turning off. A good book is far more rewarding than listening to broadcasting for the 'lower echelons' of society.

    It saddened me that such an accomplished broadcaster as Mr Mair should find it necessary to use such language to illustrate the news item.

    It does not surprise me that so few people have written in to complain, this merely represents the standard of education within the United Kingdom. I wonder how many of you are aware what the word even means?

    In reference to the person who's comment is at number 4, well my dear, I think your last sentence was the only thing I've so far read that I can agree with. Such a shame.

    p. Elliot

  12. At 09:59 AM on 09 Mar 2007, lady-from-auchtermuchty. wrote:

    So Eddie...just exactly how many bastards were on PM yesterday?

  13. At 10:06 AM on 09 Mar 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    Referring back to my earlier comment about the 'significance' of the word bastard in present society, I should perhaps explain that I meant that there is no longer any social stigma attached to the state of being born out of wedlock.

    Just in case anyone misinterpreted my meaning ;o)

  14. At 10:13 AM on 09 Mar 2007, Fiona wrote:

    I agree with Perky (6) I think you were rather enjoying yourself! In general tend to agree with what others have said - a warning beforehand before running an unbleeped piece should be sufficient.

    Good luck getting T tickets Val - have you tried that well known auction site that starts with a letter between d and f and ends with a word sounding like ray?? May have to pay a bit over the odds though that's the only problem.

  15. At 10:13 AM on 09 Mar 2007, Perky wrote:

    p Elliot (11) I hope your post on the standard of education in the UK was ironic, as it included several mistakes.....

  16. At 10:17 AM on 09 Mar 2007, Tulpa wrote:

    Eddie, do you never sleep? I am concerned that the two entries today are in the early morning!

  17. At 10:37 AM on 09 Mar 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    Wow -- long time no hear from Patricia Elliott -- I wonder is that the original stern and unkind one or the subsequent drunken one? I suppose we will never know...

    Eric, I'm afraid I didn't hear the show until ten to six last night. I'm rather sad I missed you enjoying yourself -- now you know how the rest of us feel! ;-)

  18. At 10:48 AM on 09 Mar 2007, patricia Eliott wrote:

    Responding to the lady at number (15)

    I am not infallible. Ask yourself is it the standard of English that is important or the moral fibre of the writer?

  19. At 11:01 AM on 09 Mar 2007, Sara wrote:

    Eddie - do stop wondering. The day will be what you make of it. So how about getting on with your work! (as you once instructed me!)

    Meanwhile, shame about the reappearance of a troll.

  20. At 11:06 AM on 09 Mar 2007, Belinda wrote:

    The standard of english of course.

    Some of the most interesting works published have been written by people whose moral fibre is a little constipated.

  21. At 11:55 AM on 09 Mar 2007, barrie singleton wrote:

    many years ago I worked with an Indian Graduate. We settled for me calling him a black bastard and him calling me a pink pig. We became firm friends and the proverbial Emperor rode away on the proverbial elephant.

  22. At 11:59 AM on 09 Mar 2007, jonnie wrote:

    What an interesting excursion the blog just took us on.

    Reminds me of the Microsoft commercial

  23. At 12:00 PM on 09 Mar 2007, Perky wrote:

    Belinda (20) Excellent - let's make a list of respected authors, past and present, whose works we wouldn't touch with a barge-pole if we valued our morals too highly.

    I'll start with the obvious, I'm afraid, by going for Oscar Wilde. Oh, and I'll never listen to "Greensleeves" again, because that was allegedly penned by Henry VIII and look what his morals were like!

  24. At 12:19 PM on 09 Mar 2007, Humph wrote:

    Belinda (20) I always thought that fibre, moral or otherwise, in one's diet helped relieve constipation. ;-).


  25. At 12:21 PM on 09 Mar 2007, Helen the volunteer wrote:

    Did anyone else just get bounced back to September 06? Most disconcerting...

    Belinda at 20 - how well put...

  26. At 12:28 PM on 09 Mar 2007, Fiona wrote:

    Simon (6) brilliant!! That made me laugh a lot - how very true!

  27. At 12:53 PM on 09 Mar 2007, witchiwoman wrote:

    I missed all that (apart from the few and teh end of the programme and was thoroughly confused)....sounds fun!

  28. At 01:42 PM on 09 Mar 2007, Gossipmistress wrote:

    Well our day so far is *bleeping bleepful*
    I do hope all yours are better :-) !!

  29. At 01:45 PM on 09 Mar 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    Perky (23 as I write, but I have no faith in the numbers any more after last night):

    My dears, one couldnt *possibly* read anything by Dorothy L. Sayers: she deliberately bore a bastard child and had him brought up by someone else. Tut. Shocking. And her a vicars daughter. I dont know *what* the country is coming to.

    Happier now, patricia Eliott [sic]?

  30. At 01:49 PM on 09 Mar 2007, greychin wrote:

    what about the lightbulbs?

  31. At 02:12 PM on 09 Mar 2007, The Hermitess wrote:

    What I don't understand is why parents don't use a situation such as last night's report as teaching points for their children. Here was a first rate opportunity for any children who were listening to be helped to understand how unpleasant is racist language and racism in any form, what is considered by society at large, your home or school (standards vary) to be acceptable and unacceptable language and finally, how foolish it would be, black or pink, foul-mouthed or not, to make a career in the arms forces.
    If I may end with a little theology as that’s my business; four-lettered words and the big B word are not really swearing, they are bad language, rude, , not considered acceptable in polite society. Swearing is ‘Taking the Lord’s name in vain’ (2nd commandment).

  32. At 02:27 PM on 09 Mar 2007, Deepthought (John W) wrote:

    Perky (23)

    It also depends upon what perspective the morals are viewed from - today's or of their time.

    A couple of random names that come to mind, which I think work on either viewpoint.

    Byron - "famous for it".
    Machiaevelli - different sort of moral turpitude in this case.

  33. At 02:31 PM on 09 Mar 2007, Eddie D wrote:

    In the words of Fun Boy Three and Bananarama it ain't what you do...

    I don't like swearing, whether it's mine or someone elses. All I ask is for me and others (the show included) to try not to, where possible.

    Unfortunately I'm finding it bastard hard

  34. At 02:31 PM on 09 Mar 2007, Tony wrote:

    . . . the PM audience is mature enough . . .

    Have you read the blog recently?

  35. At 03:45 PM on 09 Mar 2007, Roberto Carlos Alvarez-Galloso,CPUR wrote:

    BBC PM: Keep doing what you do best and do not pay attention to those who wants to impose a USA Style [Republican/Democratic] "Morality" on the British Radio Listener.

  36. At 03:52 PM on 09 Mar 2007, patricia Eliott wrote:

    Dear Aperatif, very aptly named. It's true to say that I have abstained from partaking in any alcohol since Ash Wednesday. This unfortunately always makes me dwell on the worthy and serious side of life. That aside, it seems clear that noone shares my views. It comes as no surprise in todays society.

    Dear Mr Ghoti, and thank you for using your name. As regards to Dorothy Sayers, you say that she deliberately gave birth to a child.
    It's true that she was a vicars daughter, however please check your facts. She used contraception which failed her, she was very worried about informing her parents, times were very different.

    Well my dears, I'm off for my afternoon nap with my favourite radio station Classic FM. I may pop and visit you all in the future, however, Time and tide ...


  37. At 04:26 PM on 09 Mar 2007, witchiwoman wrote:

    Roberto - well said!! (and a belated happy birthday, I kept getting 502'd on the day!)

  38. At 05:11 PM on 09 Mar 2007, Harley wrote:

    With regard to the Patrick Mercer discussion isnt it amazing that when a politician who can actually speak with authority on something he actually knows about gets roundly condemed by all political parties and sacked by his boss, when did truth become a victim of political correctness, it was refreshing to hear from a man who has been there and done it instead of the usual drivel and pontification by political figures who know very little about everything but are not afraid to make sure we all hear it, its no wonder that people are so apathetic with regard to politics, we all see what he sees everyday.

  39. At 05:42 PM on 09 Mar 2007, The Stainless Steel Cat wrote:

    Wow! Did someone complain about my post with the "Inherit The Wind" quotes about swearing? It appeared very briefly then disappeared.

    Have I been added to the list of authors of dubious morality that shouldn't be read?

  40. At 06:13 PM on 09 Mar 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    Oh, do lets not be formal, Mr. Eliott; surely were all friends in this forum. You may call me Chris. If you insist on attempting formality, it isnt Mr. Ghoti, its Pr. Ghoti.

  41. At 06:31 PM on 09 Mar 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    (40) Professor Fish? Surely not.

  42. At 06:46 PM on 09 Mar 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    Hahahaha -- it's definitely the second Patricia Eliott* rather than the troll -- marvellous! Am I "aptly named" because I'm very pleasant before dinner then?... :-)

    *Sorry, I know she doesn't capitalise her first name but I just can't bring myself to lower my standards when it comes to grammar.

  43. At 10:55 PM on 09 Mar 2007, patricia Elliot wrote:

    My dear Aperitif,

    I aptly name you as, of course you know, your name has been taken from the latin verb 'aperire', which means 'to open'. Out of the many commentators here, Aperitif, I can always spot that 'open' nature of yours. A lovely virtue my dear.

    As for you PR Christopher Ghoti, is it my computer that need updating or do I need to get some new Firewolf software that I hear some of you talk about.
    All these squares my dear!
    My neice is in public relations, I do hope you are enjoying your work.

    Well I must confess I did break my promise and had a tipple tonight and feel much more like my old self. Once Simon Bates has finished on Classic FM i'm at a loss of how to fill my hours. I'm so glad dear Mr Mair was somewhat more restrained with his language earlier.

    Oh dear, a few sherries and the world is all rosy again

    Come intil the body o the kirk, me dearies.

  44. At 12:14 AM on 10 Mar 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    (41) Big Sister, no, indeed not a professor! It's short for Person. Wouldn't want people thinking I wasn't one of those just on account of my being a fish, right?

  45. At 02:47 AM on 11 Mar 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    Blimey! :-)

  46. At 08:52 PM on 11 Mar 2007, whisht wrote:

    Hi pat (jonnie)

    Hi the Hermitess (31) - interesting that about "swearing". I think that the etymology is that of "swear" meaning "to take an oath" ('[s]wear' meaning 'word' as in "giving one's..").

    Oaths were later taken by invoking the Lord's name (though who knows whose name was invoked before christianity arrived). Then swearing and taking the Lord's name in vain kinda melded.

    Gor blimey! (as it were...)

    Anyway, to quote Stewart Grainger (in some film or other set in India), on replying to a racist comment about "Indians" says "I'm sorry, I don't hate in the plural."* which I always liked (even if the film was awful).

    [*after looking for the actual quote, it turns out this was a P.G Wodehouse quote, used in the film. ooh, there's quality for yer...]

  47. At 10:51 PM on 13 Mar 2007, brendan stallard wrote:

    Jeez Eddie,

    I'm a retired copper. I've been called everything, and it really doesn't bother me too much.

    Issa the language of the streets of lunnon, innit?

    brendan (Atlanta-this month)

  48. At 01:47 PM on 14 Mar 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    I recall Billy Connolly talking about going grey in a certain area and finding that said area consequently took on a look of Stuart Grainger. As I know little else about Mr G. that is what always comes to mind when his name is mentioned...

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