Warning! Coarse Language on your Radio

Tuesday 25 April, 2017
Image: Shutterstock

John Patkin looks at where we're at with rude words on the radio

Fuck! The F-bomb is no stranger to radio but we tend to avoid using it.

In a medium that can manipulate the mind, there’s plenty of space for graphic descriptions and euphemism. As our cousins in the TV industry sweat over recent bloopers, it’s a good time to review swearing in radio.

We feel that the F-bomb is crossing an invisible standard set by the industry, its owners, and the audience. It’s a contradiction because this pre-occupation takes our focus off overall content.
Even whispering the wrong thing on the air breaks a rule we all know – don’t say anything you would regret when there are mics around. It’s not a difficult rule to follow, especially for language we don’t normally use unless you’re Samuel L. Jackson’s scriptwriter.

For the sake of this article, language use falls into two categories – formal and informal. Formal is news and information and informal is entertainment. In formal situations, we expect journalists, weather forecasters, financial commentators, and traffic reporters to be valuable sources of reliable information. They need to strike a balance between the vernacular and "hifalutin."

Show hosts and sports commentators are exponents of informal language with the masters of this genre capable of taking us into the extreme depths of our imagination with a clever use of speech and sound effects.   

Instead of focusing on swearing, why aren’t we concerned about the lack of real news, the sexualisation of female presenters, and mono-cultural language bias? Sometimes the best quality of information comes from the weather bureau or outsourced news and traffic reporters. Jammed with commercials and sports, some stations provide little relevant news and it’s pretty much limited to daylight hours. Even in 2017, female hosts are still dealing with macho blokes who continue to focus on sexualizing issues. And we’re still making fun of people’s accents and cultural heritage.

The F-bomb is shocking but could be used appropriately:

The treasurer fucked up the budget…
The Middle East is fucked up…
Some drunk fucks in the city…

We might be shocked if we heard those statements on air yet it would almost seem wrong if you didn’t make those statements among friends. Isn’t our radio supposed to be our friend? The old standard used to be “speak like your talking to your mum” which makes no sense as every parent is different. I remember learning some pretty colourful language from some of my friend’s parents.

Apart from following guidelines and having a feel for what’s acceptable there are other sources such as Google Books Ngram Viewer. Search result from this online app shows that the appearance of the F-bomb has gradually increased since the 1950s. Interestingly, it sits somewhere between "shit" and "crap."

For live Google page go here.

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