WTF: Rake’s Cleaver Greene, played by Richard Roxburgh, let fly the expletives on a memorable episode. Picture: ABC
WTF: Rake’s Cleaver Greene, played by Richard Roxburgh, let fly the expletives on a memorable episode. Picture: ABC

Who gives a damn about the F words

IN a time of so-called political correctness, it is interesting how some of our vocabulary have become no-nos while some have become even more every-day. For example, let's take two "F" words!

The first one to look at is the swearing F word. The swear word beginning with F is a lot more prominent today especially on television.

Fifty years ago it would have been a huge no-no in any company and certainly not on television.

In one episode of my favourite show Rake, in series five, the F word was used more than 30 times which was on average once every two minutes!

Don't worry, I can relate to exploding especially when the photocopier has swallowed work as it did in the Rake episode.

But let's face it, back in 1939, legend has it that producer David O. Selznik was fined $5000 for using the word "damn" in the film Gone with the Wind when Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) said, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn!"

Times change. Conversely, the use of another F word these days seems to be a no-no. That word is "fat"!

Someone is more likely to be called a little overweight or said that their BMI is a little high, but to describe someone as fat appears unacceptable.

Even as little as 20 to 30 years ago, Ian Botham, England cricketer was nicknamed Beefy, while Australian cricket captain Mark Taylor was Tubby.

Probably alliteration saved them both from the F fate. But the word fat was starting to be avoided!

However, back in the 1960s, fat was even acceptable television as exemplified by the Ford Pills advertisement. It ran,

Are you too fat, too fat, too fat,

Stay slim and stay smart,

Follow the Ford diet chart,

And take Ford pills.

Of course, back in the 1950s, kids were then being teased about their weight as might some today. Anyone who was seen as overweight might be called Fatty Arbuckle.

I doubt any of us kids in Moonah in the 1950s knew who Fatty Arbuckle was, but it rolled off the tongue as an insult.

In those years too, it was quite in order for there to be a comic character in the newspapers called Fatty Finn, who at one time rivalled Ginger Meggs in popularity.

My point? Ideas of acceptability change.

Previous unsuitable words for television are allowed, while words that were suitable years ago are now vetoed. In short, in these days of cyber bullying, someone may abuse someone else as being fat.

In return the response may be Whisky, Tango, Foxtrot (WTF) would you know!

Both these comments may be regarded as unacceptable, but these days who can say which of the two is more so?

Ian Cole is a retired teacher and former state Labor MP.