The Governors are funky dudes. Or their programme complaints committee is, at least.
Their latest complaints bulletin rules that Radio 1's Chris Moyles wasn't being homophobic when he called a ringtone "gay". Young people - apparently - now routinely say "gay" when they mean "rubbish". And the complaints committee is "familiar with hearing this word in this context".
That's the problem though. Keeping up with the latest street argot. Is "bollocks" now OK or not? I have to say, I thought it had been since the Sex Pistols won their case back in 1977. You'll remember it. The title of their album was "Never mind the bollocks, here's the Sex Pistols". A policewoman in Nottingham complained. M'learned friends got involved... and it was decided that "bollocks" was OK following the intervention of a linguist from the local university.
Some 30 years later, it's still not a unanimous view. When Today referred on-air to those rather popular "Bollocks to Blair" T-shirts that were doing the rounds after the hunting vote, sensitivities were aroused. We argued - successfully - that the word, while clearly abusive, wasn't necessarily offensive.
It's not always that simple. I used to receive two or three letters a month complaining that once again Brian Widlake - when he was one of the presenters of The World at One - had used the phrase "cock-up" to describe some public figure's minor oversight. I decided to settle it once and for all and started to compose a well-researched letter showing how the complainant was flat wrong and an idiot to boot - but no slang dictionary could help. In fact they made it worse, linking the phrase to a very dubious practice at a minor public school.
There is a very useful chart which, sadly, was last updated some time ago. Even so, it's re-assuring to know that you can say "peace off", "wear the fox hat" or call someone a "salad tosser" with relative impunity. In the intervening six years, it seems that "shag" has moved down a peg or two and - if Chris Moyles is now our arbiter in this - so has "slag".
Context is all ... as those funky dudes on the Governors' committee explained when they reviewed a deluge of complaints over the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves back in 2005. The Committee noted the words ‘bastard’, ‘bollocks’, ‘piss’, ‘bugger’ and ‘bloody’ and "after careful consideration given to the context" decided that "the language was part of the rough-and-tumble of the story, appropriate to the rough and coarse characters depicted and the age they lived in".
Maybe that's what got Moyles off the hook this time.