'Nick Griffin, you f****** w*****'

Replacing swear words in a news story with a string of asterisks may protect the sensibilities of easily offended readers but it doesn't always aid understanding. For example, Metro's front page lead today begins:

British National Party leader Nick Griffin found himself in the centre of a racism court case today - in which he claimed to be the victim.

The far-right leader and North West MEP alleged he was racially abused by a driver who made threatening 'gun gestures' towards him and called him a white 'b*****d'.

But, while defendant Taquir Khalid admitted being at the scene of the incident, he insisted he shouted only 'Nick Griffin, you f****** w*****' and flicked a V-sign.

It's that final asterisked word that caused me problems. When I first read the paragraph I took it to mean that Khalid had called Griffin a 'whitie' - after all, it's an offensive term that begins with 'w', has six letters, and ties into the story's theme of racial abuse.

Of course, calling someone a 'whitie' would be as as racist as (or possibly even more racist than) calling someone a 'white b*****d', so admitting to it wouldn't be much of a defence against a charge of racial abuse.

Within a few seconds my brain had done the processing and come up with 'wanker' instead.

Incidentally, if Metro can give the first and last letter for 'b*****d', why can't it do the same for other swear words?

Grammar Girl: Swear Words in Text


lynneguist said...

I think they do the 'd' on 'bastard' to differentiate it from 'bollock'.

I've had the problem before that it's been 'b*******' and I've read 'bastards' rather than the intended 'bollocks'--just because 'bollocks' isn't on my swear-radar.

Gloom Raider said...

For what it's worth, I'm American and immediately identified that as "wanker." That's probably just indicative of something about me, however...

Gloom Raider said...

Just to clarify, I meant that I am constantly accused of potty-mouth!

Blue said...

Gloom Raider, I too went right to "wanker". LOL