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Swearing in The Archers and Ambridge Extra

Tuesday 14 June 2011, 13:09

Keri Davies Keri Davies Web Producer, The Archers

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Greg James

BBC Radio 1 DJ Greg James has taken a fancy to Ambridge Extra. Here he is talking on his show about the programme. He rightly observed that the language the teenage characters use is, of necessity, not as fruity as it would be in reality:

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Ambridge Extra scriptwriter Tim Stimson recognises the challenge:

'Oh fiddle sticks!' 'Golly gosh!' 'Flipping heck!' As a writer of The Archers and Ambridge Extra, these are all phrases I try very hard to avoid. Swearing is incredibly rare in Ambridge or Borchester, or even at Southampton Uni - at least in those bits we hear on air.

However, as Greg James noticed, not swearing in Ambridge Extra has been particularly tricky. With most of our characters you can normally get away with it, but the absence of profanity in our teenage dialogue is particularly noticeable. Not only that, but the adrenaline-filled scenarios in which we frequently find Jamie embroiled tend to lend themselves to an even greater outpouring of expletives.

The best solution is to simply try to avoid it. Thanks to the listeners of Radio 1, but we probably won't be using many of their suggested faux swear words. Clean replacements very rarely work. Far better to try to get the force of an invective over in the meat of the dialogue itself. Humour can also help. It's hard to believe that in reality Jazzer's speech wouldn't be peppered with profanities. Somehow though, because Jazzer is so creative with his put-downs one tends not to notice.

Of course this is all easier said than done and sometime you can't help resorting to the odd 'blimey'. It's also hard to know what words people still regard as unacceptable. Language moves on and some words that would never cross the lips of our older characters seem quite natural and inoffensive spoken by the younger ones. Nevertheless we try our utmost to keep Ambridge safe for those with more sensitive ears.

And it also seems that I've managed to get through this entire blog post about swearing without swearing. Thank flip for that.

Do we get it more or less right? Would you like to hear a little more swearing on The Archer and Ambridge Extra? Or do you feel we are still overstepping the mark? Let us know - but keep it clean.

Keri Davies is an Archers (and Ambridge Extra) scriptwriter and web producer.

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    Comment number 1.

    I have no idea who Greg James is or why his view of 'Ambridge Extra' should carry any weight with me. Surely the discussion of 'bad language' belongs in the playground. Or is it considered interesting and modern to discuss whether or not 'the kids on the street' should be realistically portrayed using foul language? Who knows it may pull the punters in if some vulgar yet contemporary language is sprinkled through the fast moving dialogue?

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    Comment number 2.

    We get enough swearing on the streets, I certainly don't want to hear it on the radio - keep it as it is.

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    Comment number 3.

    Personally I have no objection to the occasional bit of swearing on the radio and in drama. However rather than trying it out on The Archers and Am Ex, why not pilot a separate radio soap aimed at young people without using Archers' characters?

    You obviously have some idea how Am Ex has been received by young people and also a pretty good idea that a lot of TA listeners (myself included) have not warmed to it. Therefore you would probably alienate even more people if you started introducing lots of coarse swearing in the programme. However that is not to say that a radio soap marketed for young people, minus the Archers brand, would not work. We can always choose not to listen to it.

    As for TA itself the odd mild expletive here and there would not bother me too much and would probably be more realistic.

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    Comment number 4.

    This all seems a bit pointless to me, when in the 18:30 "comedy" (so called) slot far worse is regularly shouted out by all and sundry.

    It smacks to me of briefcasing dual (at least) standards.


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    Comment number 5.

    Swear-up Sunday? Querty's take on the subject from the pauseliveaction blog:


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    Comment number 6.

    No I would NOT like more swearing. There's quite enough incivility in real life - no need to make it look OK, 'kewl' etc etc.

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    Comment number 7.

    You don't need to include swearing. Just let the bleeping characters say what they bleeping well like and bleep it out. Bleeping obvious, innit?

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    Comment number 8.

    Do not add swearing, if we need it now we also needed it when i was growing up and when my parents grew up, ad infinitum.

    Unless you live in a fantasy world where you and your freinds didn't swear as teenagers.

    So keep it clean.

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    Comment number 9.

    I'm a younger fan of both TA and Am Ex and I for one am very glad that swearing is kept out of the programmes! In fact, I think if either of them did start to include swearing I would probably stop listening. I hear it more than I want to in real life anyway, so why would I listen to something with just more profanity?

    So well done to the SWs for managing to keep it real, and keep me still listening!

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    Comment number 10.

    Nowt wrong with the odd expletive, after all what's good enough for the Oxford English Dictionary should be good enough for Ambridge...

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    Comment number 11.

    I happened to hear this Greg James programme, Keri, when I was having my hair cut. I wouldn't say that James has 'taken a fancy' to Ambridge Extra. He was making fun of it, and saying that his parents like TA - not that he himself is a listener, as far as I could make out. And then he went on to say how in it, and in Eastenders, the swearing is rubbish - a clip of someone saying 'You're a right little runt' and so on. It was a joke article, I wouldn't take is as positive publicity.

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    Comment number 12.

    Badgey I think publicity for Amex has been so bad poor old keri is clutching at very feeble straws...

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    Comment number 13.

    'No' to more swearing, please! It is not needed to make it 'realistic' - it is offensive to many, even in real life. I already listen less, since Nigel was got rid of unnecessarily. If I had to listen to swearing, I wouldn't bother to turn it on at all.


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