Do our polite and refined friends from across the pond curse? I know they use words like “bloody” when they want to up the emphasis a notch and demonstrate that they are really miffed, but do they ever actually swear?
Apparently they do! Ofcom, the United Kingdom’s communications regulator — who even knew they had one! — interviewed more than 200 people to determine how they reacted to an array of rude and offensive terms and swear words, and then ranked them in order of offensiveness. In order to be sure that they covered every form of communication, they threw in a few well-known hand gestures, too. Words in the mild category include “bloody,” “bugger,” “damn” and “arse,” as well as “crap.” (It’s hard to imagine someone with a British accent ever saying “crap,” isn’t it?) “Ginger” and “minger” — which means an unpleasant or unattractive person — were also placed in the mild category.
The medium category then includes words like “bitch,” “bollocks” (which Americans of my age know because of the Sex Pistols) and “pissed,” as well as words I’ve never heard used, like “munter” (an ugly or excessively drunk person) and “feck” (a milder substitute for you-know-what). From there we move up to the strong category, which curiously has “bastard” in it — suggesting that the Brits find “bastard” a lot more offensive than we do, perhaps of the connotations of the word in a land that still has royalty and nobility — and “fanny,” which seems pretty mild to me. The strong category also includes a bunch of British slang I’ve not heard of before. From there, the list moves up to the strongest category, where the queen mother of curses sits, as expected, atop the swear list pyramid.
The list apparently is to be used by the Brits in their communications, with words rated as mild considered to be okay to use around children, whereas most people thought the “medium” and “strong” words shouldn’t be used until after 9 p.m. The study also found, encouragingly, that the Brits are increasingly offended by words involving race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality.
I’m still finding it hard to believe that the Brits ever say “crap.”