What's so bl**dy wrong with 'bl**dy'?

Adam   Thu Mar 23, 2006 6:47 pm GMT
Meanwhile: What's so bl**dy wrong with 'bl**dy'?
Jan Freeman The Boston Globe


BOSTON 'We've poured you a beer," says the new television ad from Australia's tourism department, and "we've saved you a spot on the beach. So where the bloody hell are you?"

At least, that's how the original version goes. In Britain, however, the commercial has been rejected by the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre, which says it can't air till the "bad language" is revised. And what's the naughty word?

Not hell, as an innocent Yank might think. It's bloody (Americans are usually more squeamish than Britons when it comes to bad language).

Here we have (to further tweak the much-tweaked Wildean formulation) three nations separated by a common language. Americans have never taken to the slang word bloody, but Aussies use it a lot, and have for a long time.

In the late 19th century, writes David Crystal in The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, it was known as "the great Australian adjective," and by the 1940s it was no longer considered a swear word.

It was a different story in Britain, where bloody turned increasingly taboo after its debut in the 17th century. When Eliza Doolittle said "Not bloody likely!" in the opening performance of Shaw's "Pygmalion," in 1914, the scandal was international news; "Shaw's Adjective Shocks," reported The New York Times, in a piece quoting critics and churchmen on the play's "vulgar" and "lurid" language.

That different countries have varying sensitivities is not news, of course.

Still, bloody is a bit of a puzzler for anyone who thinks vulgarity must be related to a word's meaning, because bloody means nothing at all. It may be derived from "the habits of the 'bloods' or aristocratic rowdies" of the late 17th century, says the Oxford English Dictionary; or maybe the repellent associations of the literal bloody were enough to arouse distaste.

But there's no discernible connection with oaths like "God's blood!" or "by Our Lady," or with any other taboos. The shunning of bloody "seems to have been one of those Victorian things," says the Merriam-Webster Concise Dictionary of English Usage, and one that persisted into the 20th century: "British newspapers were still printing it as b-y as late as 1946."

In the half-century since, though, the stigma has faded noticeably.

The British advertising board defended its ban on bloody with a survey that showed - as they spun it - that 70 percent of interviewees thought the word was "mildly, fairly, or severely offensive."

But the Australians responded with counterspin: If you group the responses differently, they noted, you get 85 percent saying bloody is either "mildly" or not at all offensive. And when it came to broadcast guidelines, bloody was the tamest word on the list: Only 5 percent of people who called it a swear word thought it should "never" be heard on TV.

Given that reality - and the fact that Foster's beer (in the '80s) and Toyota (in the '90s) were allowed to use the word in TV ads - the advertising board has agreed to reconsider the ban.

By the time you read this, British TV may be running the original version, "bloody hell" and all. And anyone who doesn't like it can go to buttoned-up Singapore, where the ad tagline has been red-penciled to a demure "So where are you?"

(Jan Freeman's column appears in The Boston Globe.)
Jim   Thu Mar 23, 2006 11:29 pm GMT
I'll tell you what's so bloody wrong with "bl**dy". You spelt it wrong. It's "bloody" not "bl**dy".
Guest   Fri Mar 24, 2006 12:09 am GMT
Meanwhile, Canada has a problem with "hell".
Guest   Fri Mar 24, 2006 12:55 am GMT
I enjoyed the Australian tourism advert. I don't really find it offensive. It really highlights (not only the beauiful country Australia is) but also shows the development of an English accent in the South Seas.

Before I watched the advert I didn't really understand the difference between Australians and New Zealanders accents until I came across it.

Wonderful ad - bravo Australia!
Jim   Fri Mar 24, 2006 12:55 am GMT
The up-shot of it all, though, is that either way we win. The silly fuss that the Poms have kicked up over this mildly to non-offensive word has only drawn more attention to our campaign. Banning our favourite adjective indeed!
Uriel   Fri Mar 24, 2006 4:10 am GMT
The things people will use as a swear word ... I read once that Finnish is so deficient in naturally-occurring epithets that they have resorted to using the word for "restaurant" ... no idea if that's true, but it's funny!
Jim   Fri Mar 24, 2006 7:28 am GMT
"We've poured you a beer, we've saved you a spot on the beach. So where the restaurant are you?"
Guest   Fri Mar 24, 2006 7:34 am GMT
So what the hell is wrong with "hell", you Cannucks?
Bloody Damian ..again   Fri Mar 24, 2006 8:55 am GMT
When George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion was dramatised for the stage audiences were scandalised to hear Eliza Doolittle yell out: "Not bloody likely!" Apparently delicately dignified elegant ladies fainted from the shock at this obscenity and people wrote irate letters of protest to the London Times. Imagine how they would react if they were to watch TV or a stage production today....f*****g apopolectic.
Restaurant Damian   Fri Mar 24, 2006 8:58 am GMT
Restaurant hell.......I am back in the restaurant office again! :-( .....but TGIF! Yay!!! :-)
natalie   Tue Mar 28, 2006 12:58 pm GMT
bloodys in the bible
bloodys in the book
if you dont belive me
take a bloody look !

its a bloody good song dont u think
Uriel   Tue Mar 28, 2006 4:54 pm GMT
Jim, Damian, there are children here ... if you could just tone it down to "cafe", please.
AndyJ   Thu Mar 30, 2006 7:51 am GMT
I had to comment on this one. For a number of reasons.

First the word "bloody" as a curse-word has no relation to blood. It is a corruption of "by our lady", meaning Mary (St. Mary, the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, etc.) and was therefore a blasphemous curse when it arose. It is very common for curses to mutate in this way (cf. "Hell" -> "heck" and "God blind me" to "Cor blimey" which is common in Britain).

I am surprised if it was banned in Britain as swearing is becoming ever more commonplace on british television, with f*** being heard after the 9pm "watershed". But as I no longer live in Britain, I do not know the details. If advertising is to be broadcast before 9pm then I can see why it might be censored as bloody is still regarded as a curse word in Britain (though commonly used).

My last comment relates to the use of the Finnish word for restaurant (ravintola) as a curse word. As Finland is now my home, I feel qualified to comment on this. First, I do agree that Finnish is slightly lacking in such words, but has some excellent favourites helvetti (hell), saatana (Satan) and one which I will decline to translate as it is perhaps not best suited to a forum which may be read by younger readers, vittu. There is also the colourful paskamarjat (sh*t berries).

I can say though that, as a result of the Finnish double-standard relating to alcohol consumption (by tradition, morally frowned upon, but indulged in enthusiastically by the majority and to great excess by a worryingly large minority), the word for restaurant is used as a common euphemism for bar. I find it rather ridiculous when people talk of going to a restaurant when their purpose has nothing to do with the consumption of food!
AndyJ   Thu Mar 30, 2006 7:55 am GMT
Oops, seems I missed the discussion of "by our lady" in the original post. Oh well, folks, "you pays your money and takes your choice" as they (whoever they are) say.
Uriel   Thu Mar 30, 2006 3:51 pm GMT
Shit berries -- I love it!