I was recently asked what surprised me most when I joined the BBC. I think I now have the answer: it was all the bad swearing. I don’t mean the swearing was particularly filthy, I mean the swearing was done by people who weren’t very good at it. I’m talking about quite senior management figures – usually in London – who would throw in the odd f-word during a staff presentation, presumably to demonstrate that they were street-wise and edgy. But you could tell they had thought about it too much beforehand. There was that moment of hesitation followed by that startled flicker of self-awareness in their eyes. And usually, the f-word was slightly disembodied from the rest of their sentence. Like a bad edit in a radio pre-record.
“It’s about time we took this audience research seriously and give viewers programmes they actually want to (pause) f…ing (pause, flicker) watch!”
Somehow bad swearing seemed more offensive that the kind of swearing I was used to growing up in Glasgow. There the f and c-words flowed like sweet honey, punctuating dialogue and adding a touch of humour or anger, depending on the context.
Of course you never heard the c-word at BBC meetings in London and for that reason I was always tempted to throw one in, just to up the ante and see what the reaction would might be. I never did. Call me chicken.
That’s another c-word.