I just picked up my car from being serviced this morning and found the radio station had been re-tuned from my regular station of choice to Radio FG.
So what? Radio FG plays some good music. I usually quite like their playlist and sometimes choose to listen to it in the car. I used to listen to it a lot more when it was edgier and less mainstream. It claims to be the radio station for electro deep house, techno, dance and R’n’B although to my ignorant ears it sounds like pure Top 40 hits. (I think it’s changed…) It started life in 1981 as a community radio station for the gay scene in Paris. FG stood for fréquence gaie (gay frequency).
But somewhere in the last couple of years it has become “fucking good” music. When I first heard the jingle “Radio FG, fucking good music” I thought it was just that; a jingle. Crass, inappropriate perhaps, but just a jingle. My teenage son assured me not. He said the radio station was no longer called fréquence gaie, but actually “fucking good music”. And he was right. My bilingual son, who knows just how *bad* the F-word is.
Listening to Radio FG on a 30 minute drive I lost count of the times I heard the F-word. The *beep* word said with a sexy French accent, said with a broad American accent, even “fuck, fuck fuckin’ good music”. I heard “on va commencer avec une heure de non-stop fucking good music”. Every which way you could say f#cking good music, it was said: before each tune, after each tune, before, during and after each commercial break. Yes, I think I got my fill of effing good music!
The thing is, to my ears it just sounds so wrong. I’m not a prude and can swear like a trooper (in fact I probably swear too much) but I understand context and get when I can and can’t use the F-word. This trend towards using English words in French is very popular and clearly considered cool. But to my English ears this excessive overuse of this particular taboo swear word is more than out of place, it’s tasteless, gross and way out-of-line. I don’t want my bilingual children listening to this kind of language as if it was a completely acceptable way to talk. Their monolingual French friends undoubtedly understand the word but don’t get just how foul it sounds being repeated over and over again, or perhaps it all just goes over their head, and being “foreign” they don’t pay any attention. If they were to use it in everyday speech native English-speaking adults would be shocked. But why should they know this when they hear it being used in such a way on a very popular radio station by DJs they admire? I have one particular French friend, in his early 50s, who uses it often and thinks it’s as banal as “merde” is in French. But it’s just not. And somehow it sounds even worse coming from a non-native speaker (I guess I expect people speaking English as a second language to speak “proper” English, I know I usually feel silly swearing in French – except for “merde”!)
Perhaps it’s just a British thing. I wonder how Australians and Americans feel about this? Brits are brought up listening to the BBC. The BBC still doesn’t allow such language…songs are *beeped* when a naughty word pops up or released with a “clean” version. Remember Lily Allen’s song “Fuck You” from 2009? The “clean” version was “thank you”. Not so in France where even the school music teacher sang “fuck you” clearly and beautifully enunciated at the school fête in front of kids from 2-10 years old!
I remember when even such a vapid word as arse/ass was beeped from Blondie’s 1978 hit single Heart of Glass
“Once I had a love and it was a gas
Soon turned out I had a heart of glass [radio version]
Soon turned out to be a pain in the ass [album version]
Seemed like the real thing only to find
Mucho mistrust, love’s gone behind”
How my friends and I giggled knowingly over that one. Such innocence! I wonder if in 30 years the eff word will be considered as ordinary and commonplace as ass is now?
So what do you think about the name of this radio station and would you let your kids listen to it? Should I just accept that language changes and get over it, just laugh it off, as my French friends would do, or am I right to find it inappropriate? And the big question is should I change the name of my blog to “LOU MESSUGO FG BLOG”?
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While I’m bilingual, I’m still french and DEFINITELY swear too much, so this had me think a lot. I did pick it up from english friends (east london queer punks can be potty-mouthed, I guess) but I realise after reading this, that though I always warn people about that fact when I speak to them, french people don’t seem to care at all – and also, that I tend to avoid doing it in certain contexts, obiously! I wouldn’t say “sodding” or “bloody” in front of my teacher, let alone “fuck”, even though they’re part of my day to day speech.
I think it’s a more commonplace word in my generation, like I said, my friends are anything but squeamish about it, but perhaps it just varies with people and context. I certainly wouldn’t use it in front of my great-aunt Wendy, but is it because she’s older or because she’s just from a family where you don’t say that, I’m not even sure.
Is it me or has anyone else noticed that Radio FG is now Feelin’ Good?
Your last sentence had me in stitches, Phoebe!!! As a French person living in Ireland, I also wince at the repeated use of the F-word in France. They have no idea how bad it sounds. During our time in Denmark, I was also shocked at how often and how casually the Danes would use it too. So I do think it is to do with swearing in another language, and not grasping how crass it sounds. But I also lived in the UK and I found the beeping of swear words in songs that bit too prudish.
Even after 7 years of living in France, it still makes me smile when you’re walking around the likes of Castorama and you hear the F word in the music they’re playing as they play the original, uncensored version. For me swearing is OK, sometimes it’s the only way you can express exactly how you feel, but only ever in the right place! Hate anything where swearing is used too much, including movies. Find it a huge turn off and just not necessary. It sounds like I’d definitely have to turn that radio station off!
Great post Phoebe! I remember the first time I heard French radio play a song with the F word in and I was quite shocked (and slightly amused too). Only in France! Working in broadcasting, I’m well aware of the hefty fines Ofcom dish out at misuse of language – even if it’s accidental. So for a radio station to have the F word in its name and seemingly on repeat is so unnecessary! Not something I’d want my children to hear and not something that should be advocated. There’s a place for swear words and the radio isn’t one of them. The French definitely have a different take on things. Out of interest, would they use French swear words so loosely as well? Thanks for hosting #allaboutfrance
Thanks for such an entertaining post Phoebe. The approach they’ve taken is really quite interesting – and no doubt, very disconcerting for many ex-pats. This wouldn’t be ok’ed in Australia. And as far as I know, they wouldn’t just bleep the word out…they wouldn’t be able to use it at all!
Not a station I’ve come across and to be honest I don’t think I’ll go hunting for it now & just stay with RFM on the car where the F is much more appropriate! Like so many others have commented I feel uncomfortable with such regular use of the word especially in such an open format. I remember being quite taken aback when I heard an unedited Lily Allen song on one of the channels, rounded off with the presenter repeating the F word many times in his commentary. I remember songs being banned by the BBC when I was growing up & I think we’re beyond that now, but some how a space in a song sounds better (even if subconsciously you know what is missing)!
This is pretty upsetting. It’s so ignorant. Like you I am quite capable of swearing but I understand context! Context is so important. The F-word is on TV after a 10pm watershed in the UK and I’ve only heard it broadcast by accident on the radio. I remember once there was a tennis player at Wimbledon who got frustrated and swore a lot in his native language. The English speaking officials had no idea but viewers from his home country rang to complain, and a message was passed to the umpire who put a stop to it. Most people are considerate.
As an American, I’m also shocked when I hear a foreigner who uses the F-word so often and so casually. I think they watch movies in which it’s overused and think it’s normal. It’s really off-putting to me.
I forgot to say that I really enjoyed this post, and even laughed out loud reading it! #allaboutfrance
Mainstream in the US doesn’t allow the use of the F-word, however if you listen to Sirius Radio it’s allowed. I do listen to Sirius, but we usually change the station if a song comes on with excessive use of the F-word… I’m not into my 9 year old hearing it repeatedly. I’m pretty sure the F-word is universally known as a “bad” word, and the radio station knows this, but as you said they think they are being cool. I won’t lie, I do use swear words and occasionally even the F-word (gasp), but I do think there is a time and a place, and mainstream radio isn’t that place.
The F word has lost a lot of its currency because it’s over-used these days. Whenever I go back to the UK, which isn’t often now, f***ing seems to be the adjective of choice. Like you, I’m no prude about bad language, but it does make me wince. And it really, really annoys me when the garage changes my chosen radio station to theirs!
It is nice to revisit this post. I suppose it all comes down to context because at the end of the day how different is the sound fuck to, say duck, yet to someone who doesn’t understand either word then neither is a problem for them, but for someone who does understand them, one can be particularly offensive, especially in certain contexts and tones. If used continually as part of a jingle or interspersed into everyday radio chat I would not find it offensive (although I know others still would) but I would probably find it mildly annoying as I find any repetitive or bad jingle. However maybe French listeners think they are being super cool by listening to a radio station that allows so much English swearing …. when in fact it just sounds stupid!
It’s something we discuss quite often around the supper table, with all of our children. The F word just doesn’t have the same meaning here in France. I still gasp if I hear a kid swear, and I hear plenty of it, especially at sports, but everyone else just acts as if it is totally normal, the f word is like us British saying damn or blast. At least that is the way I understand it from all my french friends and from all the children’s school friends. But to us, it will also shock a little, we cannot change that!
You should only change the name if it will omit the FG and include, ahem pardon my french, fucking good instead. No time to be soft after a blog like that one 😉
Do not, repeat DO NOT change the name of your blog! This made me smile but Imwould change channel!
I must be getting less edgy and more stodgy, but Radio FG would have certainly been cut out by my parents. Then again they listened to ABBA 😉
In America, the F-word is still regarded as the mother of all bad words (especially when the word mother is added). While it is used freely, there is still a bit of reserve about it and it is definitely on the radio. I don’t even hear it used on satellite radio, where some of the other bad words get tossed around. I think it is funny how you described the layering of the word, which isn’t really done in America. Great post for starting conversation and now I’ll have to tune in next time I am in France. #AllAboutFrance fun!
This has made me laugh so much. Some German colleagues recently used a headline with the term “shitstorm” in it (without blinking) so I don’t think it’s a uniquely French phenomenon… #AllAboutFrance (welcome back).
I grew up without swearing in my parents house and my children have grown up in a non swearing house. I’d always prefer to be a prudish classy lady than a modern foul mouthed women. Just my personal choice #AllAboutFrance
Really thought provoking post! Isn’t language fascinating? My sons (now in their twenties) learnt the importance of context. I knew they would use certain words with their friends but would do their best not to use them in front of me. I’m not a fan of the F word but it’s not as bad as the hideous C word.
When my youngest son was learning French, in the UK, he very proudly told me that he thought something was ‘merde de taureau’ ! I guess he thought that because I was a French teacher, I would be impressed with him applying his language learning skills! I don’t know about that but it certainly made me laugh!
Hi Phoebe, I’m no prude either but every time I hear an explicit rap song at the gym with loads of f-bombs, my ears do a double take. In the US, we’d only hear the clean version in public. As you said, it sounds crass, but for the French, the English word just doesn’t carry the same weight. It’s almost cool in a way and I’ve heard French people saying the f-word and even the n-word like it’s nothing. They don’t really get it. My husband said fuck comes across as way more serious in English than putain does in French. #allaboutfrance31
This is a subject I wanted to blog about too. I must say that swear words in our own language are always stronger than those in another language – but this is generally true for lots of words. Last year I heard a Russian author who writes in German explain that when he says the word ‘dog’ in Russian he can feel, smell and hear it, whereas when he says the same word in German it is just a word and doesn’t conjure the same reaction in his senses. Interesting. Thanks for posting this, Phoebe. #AllAboutFrance
That’s something that gets me too when the title of the song comes up for all and sundry to see. I’m not surprised you nearly crashed the car! Another example of how inappropriate it is.
I think Brits are pretty prudish, but then this particular word is ours and we get how bad it is…it’s not a French word and it gets used too much in the wrong context…prude or not!
again, this points to foreigners thinking it’s cool to get someone to swear/use swear words…
Yes and calling a radio station F**king good music is certainly a situation that is not called for!
I’m impressed you asked the guy on the ferry to tone down his language, I don’t think I’d have dared!
There’s definitely a lot of the wanting to seem cool going on I agree Richard, and I’m sure that’s what the radio station thinks it is by changing its name.
Wow the secretary using it is way out of line! I wonder where s/he learnt English?
You had me for an instant with the C word…I thought no way Lizzie! Thank f**k it was just Connard!! I hear a lot of swearing form the teen’s bedroom when he’s online gaming too but I don’t think I’ve heard the F word. Plenty of putains, merdes and shits though. Maybe he gets how bad it is…?!
Sorry to have confused you Jacqui, you’ll have to tune in to FG radio if you can get it in your neck of the woods (or listen online). What really gets me is that it is the actual name of the radio station which I just find absurd and that it really is said several times a minute (the only pause is when an actual song is being played). I don’t know any other radio station that reinforces its name/jungle/catchline quite so often, it really is like they’re saying “listen to us, how wild and crazy we are that we use this word ALL THE F**KING TIME”!!!
They probably won’t find it as shocking as we do as it’s certainly a generational thing as well as cultural. They’ll just have to know that it’s not the thing to say in front on English Granny!!
It is hard to just dismiss as a cultural difference, I agree, especially as it’s an English word being usurped by another language under inappropriate circumstances.
Now that sounds like a good story to tell Meghan! I think those of us who’ve tried to learn a foreign language will always have some funny anecdotes to tell about inappropriate language…
That is an incredible situation Valerie but I wonder if she’d ever have said to you “j’ai envie de dire putain de merde” or some such saying in French? I think probably not, because of the whole thing about swearing in a foreign language doesn’t convey the same level of crudeness/nuance etc. Bizarrely WTF ha become quite acceptable in English. I guess because you don’t actually hear the f word.
F*** brilliant, Phoebe!
As a French person, I can completely relate to your friend Annabelle’s post.
French people like rough language. It’s a fact. There is a dozen “strong language” equivalent to virtually any French word. In French it’s perfectly OK to use a very sophisticated word or phrase and to swear all in the same sentence. And Annabelle correctly points out, in any “second language” (as in English for the French), speakers do not fully grasp the nuances and the potentially offensive tone of the language they use.
Also, interestingly, “What the F***?” and the corresponding short hand WTF have become reasonably common in French over the last couple of years. In fact, just last week, a your intern I was working with was telling me that she was surprised we used some process at work and she told me “J’ai envie de dire… “What the f***”. And this is at work, I am her senior manager, this is supposed to be a *formal* situation. F*** incredible, right?
Swearing in a different language doesn’t carry the same weight as when you swear in your own language so when you cringe at Fuck You, the French probably just don’t see why. I remember learning some swear words in German. It was very funny teasing some German guys in a bar once (years ago!). I had not realized just how crude I was sounding! #myexpatfamily
I spend so much time trying to not swear in the car in front of the kids when there’s bad driving I’d be so annoyed if all my efforts were wasted by the radio!
Oh I would find this so hard to listen to! I think being brought up in the UK definitely has a lot to do with it. It’s not that I don’t swear at all myself, of course, but I just cringe when I hear really bad ones like this bandied about like it’s nothing. I hear it in Belgium and Holland too, and I’m always amazed at the lack of inhibition at using a word so foul. One of the languages my son is being brought up with is English and I would be mortified if he started thinking it was okay to talk like this, and I don’t think I could dismiss it as just a cultural difference.
That’s crazy! I find it funny that French stations play explicit songs on the radio and ever so often I find myself turning the volume down quickly or switching the station so the kids don’t hear. But actually it will be interesting to see how my boys (who are only 3 and 5) will grow up using/understanding English swear words. Will the ‘f’ word seem as shocking to them, especially as they will probably grow up hearing it on the radio (as they wont be hearing it from us!)
I’m not sure how I’d feel about this without actually listening to it. I don’t swear that often, but I do sometimes and my best mate who I’ve seen every week for over ten years swears all the time, including the F word, in front of her kids and mine. It is just who she is and it doesn’t bother me, so if I can hear her saying it, why would or should the radio station bother me? However, if my son started peppering his conversations with it, I wouldn’t like that at all, so I wouldn’t be happy with him listening to this radio station and I’m not sure their use of that language would enhance my listening experience, so I’d turn off. I think you have confused me Phoebe 🙂
I had no idea Fréquence Gaie had become F*****G GOOD! I agree with many of the comments above, the French have NO idea how rude and inappropriate it sounds. You of all peeps know how much I use it Phoebe, try not to in front of the boys but have to admit it slips out from time to time. My younger two sons have never used it in front of me, however my eldest now thinks that because he’s an adult, he can use it when and where he wants (I’ve had to put him straight a few times!) At school I’m sure my middle son would use it though (he has many anglo friends at his French international lycée) but he defintely refrains from using it at home in front of me (I hear him on-line though swearing like a trooper when he’s playing his games with his friends..) So, yes, it does shock me when I hear French people using the F word as if it were the same as merde, well it isn’t. So merde!! Strange as it may seem, I tend to swear in French when I’m behind my wheel, even in England, or here in China when I’m on my push bike, no idea why that would be!! The C word comes out a lot, but the French one: connard!!
Oooooh this is one of my bog bugbears. The other day someone asked me how I stop my dogs (insert two anglo saxon words) doing their business in the garden. My kids just don’t need to hear that. One of those words was once used by a secretary of someone I called to explain why he could not come to the ‘phone at that point in time. All countries where English is a mainstream (but not first) language.
What an interesting post. I’m sure that the general drift – that swearing in someone else’s language may seem “cool”, and that its offensiveness to native speakers of that language isn’t understood by those trying to be cool – is right.
Your post is fascinating Annabelle, thanks for linking it here. This is clearly a cultural issue, that won’t go away and will continue to offend/shock.
Yes Jonathan that is one of the hardest issues with public swearing like this, raising bilingual children. I realise there’s a lot of culture difference going on here but as the word is essentially English it’s going to continue to offend native English speakers if not others used this way.
Please not the C-word…so far I’ve never heard a Frenchie use it…I’m impressed by your restraint. I swear in front of my kids in situations like that. Not good I know but instinct kicks in…maybe I’ve try to keep it to shit rather than F… Glad to see you’re with me on this Rosie.
I just wanted to add that I hear French people saying fuck too often and I point out how unacceptable it is to English ears. Rarely does the person realise the gravity of what they say … but there again I was on the ferry home recently and the man at the table opposite was talking loudly with every second word being fuck … and I had the boys with me. He did stop when I asked but to him he was oblivious of the children around him or the fact he might actually offend some people.
I think you are completet right in finding it inappropriate. Why is it that the more mainstream such words get, the more “ok” it is to use them? They are still words that should be avoided, especially in situations that its not called for! #myexpatfamily
It seems your dance teacher has the same ideas as our singing teacher Christine! It sill amazes me when I witness things like that. It’s definitely cultural (and a tiny bit being older and wiser!) I’d forgotten the Cee Lo Green example. The other thing about sounds with the F word or worse in the title is that it comes up on the dashboard in the car too just in case you thought you could zone out and not pay attention it’s there in plain script! It’s funny though how French is perceived as a cultured and elegant language and yet… 😮 So glad you’re with me on this.
Interesting to hear that your French SIL uses the F word. It really does seem to be part of French nowadays!
Interesting to hear that our neighbours les Belges aren’t as OK with the F word on air as here in France. I totally agree with what you say about public swearing needing to take into account the sensibilities and norms of the audience. I also agree that it is a very useful little word, haivng so many grammatical forms but that’s a private thing not for radio! I like your name for my blog 🙂
I can just imagine your stern words after the effing presentation! Thanks for adding your 2 cents’ worth Rachel, good to see you on my blog…I didn’t know you read it. 🙂
You’ve hit the nail on the head I think Sally…it’s so hard to gauge the strength of a foreign swear word…and it’s definitely generational too. (Good to hear form an Aussie!)
Interesting that you heard an increase of swearing on English TV. I still feel it’s very censored except Channel 4 and after the 9 pm watershed. But even if it is creeping in a little, there’s no way a radio station would actually be called FG music! I’d never tell you to F off FFS!!!
Glad you agree with me Ruth, and happy you liked this post!
I’m sure you’ve got a very good point there Clara. The average person’s linguistic skills in another language are not good enough to pick up on nuances and cultural norms. Swearing in another language makes it seem acceptable, even cultured. It’s definitely an interesting side to the multi-faceted expat life we lead.
Your story is hysterical Sam. How can this woman have thought it was a good idea to embroider the F word on a little bag? Who did she think her market was? A trendy teen who might consider the word cool wouldn’t be seen dead buying a little embroidered pouch! An older person who might like the pouch wouldn’t like the word! What was she thinking? Just goes to show how pervasive the word is in France.
I’m glad you got that off your chest too Lisa! And good to hear that I’m not alone in my dislike of this use of the word.
It’s definitely not a British only thing. Certain swear words are not allowed on public radio and network television. German TV always throws me off with the swearing. Samuel L. Jackson was recently on a German talk show and the hosts were having a lot of getting him to swear as much as possible – which he does in movies, but not on American TV.
Hahah Phoebe you definitely should change your name to lou messugo FG blog!!!!!!
I can’t believe that is allowed, you’re right maybe it’s a British thing being brought up on the sparkly clean bbc with no swearing but it seems wrong, especially the F word which is up there in the list of “bad” words!!! Maybe we are all a little bit prude as British haha!
Loved this thanks for sharing with #myexpatfamily x
It’s something we have been talking about a lot recently in our family, with three teenagers and two younger daughters it seems, in France, they are constantly hearing the F words in songs on the radio, no one really takes much notice, but the other day a new song came on, but it wasn’t the song that caught our attention, it was the name of the song, clearly written in large capital letters on the screen of the sat-nav – Mother F…..r I nearly crashed the car and I promptly turned it off, even the teenagers were shocked. This led to much discussion, and having read your blogpost earlier I asked the teenagers about swearing at school. They all said no one uses the f word. Kids swear, they said they swear just as much here as they do in the UK or the USA, in their opinion there’s no difference, and they have been educated in all three countries. However here they say p…ain (French) not the f word, that is considered much the same, I know if I hear this in French it is the same as hearing the f word in English. Personally I would not use it in conversation, only when I nearly crash the car because I saw it on the sat nav! The children know it is not a word for polite conversation and not one to use in front of their parents and I hope not with their peers either.
Very interesting post. I think the issue at play here is the fact that these people are using English as a second language. It is well documented in linguistics research that people do swear much more easily in a second language simply because they do not really realise how strong the words are. I write about this here http://www.thepiripirilexicon.com/2013/07/emotions-and-language-for-multilinguals.html?m=1. Emotions are strongly linked to language.
I also think that the Brits are easily offended by swearing and the French are not.
I think that there are quite a few cultural differences in play here when it comes to attitudes to swear words in France and the UK. For example, I have seen footage of a recorded interview of a factory worked on a French lunchtime news programme where he said “on est dans la merde” (literally “we’re in the shit”). I cannot imagine a similar BBC news programme including recorded footage of someone saying “we’re in the shit”. I guess that the issues about swear words that you’ve discussed here become complicated when you have a child who knows both languages and may still be learning about differing attitudes to saying what is essentially the same word in different languages.
There is a time and a place for swearing – hammer to finger being a fine example but even then it is not always appropriate. When I shut my finger in a heavy door my sister-in-law was amazed that I remained silent but as my then 10 year old son was there had I opened my mouth it would have been a torrent of words I would not want him to hear his mother yell – so silence it had to be. And that is why using a swear word as glibly as this is wrong. It is a word known throughout the world and by many non English speakers but how many of them really understand how unacceptable it is to so many people … people of all ages who do not want to hear it yelled across the airwaves like it was merde … it is NOT the same. Over the years swear words have all gradually shifted in their levels of “rudeness” and I remember being severely told off for saying “bloody” which today may not get a second glance. How soon because will fuck be just as widely used and what then … the C-Word? I sincerely hope not because that word is an abhorrent to me as Fuck is to some people today and no-one should be left having to hear a word on the public airways that is used in so many instances to offend and hurt.
Nooooooo!!!!Don’t get me started! I totally agree with this post. Not only do I think using the F-word in this way wrong on all kinds of levels but it actually makes me flinch! I’m a not-so-prudish-mother of teenage girls(or so I like to think!) living in France and have repeatedly been left speechless at the way the F word is banded about on the radio. If there exists an explicit version of a song, you can bet that this is the one that will be played. Cee Lo Green’s ‘Forget You’ was replaced with ‘Fuck You’ in France. I loved the song but had to keep turning the radio off on the school run as it was too much for delicate ears at 8am!. This is the case even on large mainstream radio stations like Virgin. Another recent example for me was the dance prof’s song choices for the end of year show. This year girls aged 7 and 8 performing their beautifully rehearsed routines to Nicki Minaj ‘s ‘Anaconda’!!.( If you don’t know this song then google the lyrics….). As the song boomed around the theatre with plenty of F words and lots of other gems, no one around me in the French audience seemed to flinch. Another cultural diffrence or maybe I’m just getting old?!
I was also brought up not to swear, and even today I hardly ever do, apart from “SxxT”.
My French son in law tends to use the F word a lot actually, which he avoids using in front of me, as he knows I don’t like it!
As for the radio station I would be uncomfortable listening to that type of thing all day long, and I would certainly not let my kids listen to it. Nowadays most films have far too many swear words which are unnecessary to convey the story!
Very interesting. I work on an english speaking radio station in Brussels. We had a french guest in one day, the socialite of brussels as she was introduced to me (I thought that that was me, but hey 😀 )..she gave the lowdown on the cool, youth stuff happening in Brussels. Coming up to New Year’s eve, the host of the show was asking everyone what their plans were to see in the new year. Now, I knew exactly what our guest had planned, it was all over Facebook. When it came to her being asked there was a nanosecond where I thought “this shouldn’t be said on air” …..the nanosecond passed and out came “A big party, called “Fucking New Year”. I cannot tell you how much trouble the 3 hosts of the show got into for letting the “f” word out onto the airwaves. And I completely agree. I don’t love swearing, but I swear a lot, but in my time, in my circle of friends. To date, noone has asked me to leave on account of my swearing. But if you are in a public domain, that’s different, you have to take the age groups, the sensibilities, the norms of others into account. If I swear in front of my children and then they swear, I have nothing to say. If I don’t swear in front of my children, and a public service does, a lot, I have plenty to say, but no way of stopping it. Maybe I’m just getting old, but standards do seem to be slipping. Maybe I should also just accept that for non native english speakers “fuck” is just a funny word (well, it is, and i love that it has so many different forms, noun, adjective – well, any grammatical word form really….and you know I’m f**king right! :p )……and it was certainly cuter quainter and better as fréquence gaie !! and if you were to change the name of your blog, for me, it would be Lou MESSUGO Fabulously Great BLOG.
Totally agree Phoebe! I’ve taught students who thought it was clever to include the F word in their presentations. I soon put them right! I also told my kids the Lily Allen song was ‘Thank-You’ but they came back shame faced from school when their friends proved it wasn’t that!
Phoebe, I agree with you 100%. But even in Englsh I try not to use it. I still justify swearing to myself if I am quoting someone else (e.g. Monty Python). I remember, however, gleefully swearing in Spanish until I saw the look on my friends’ faces. In spanish it mostly seems to be about your mother’s bits, and I realised then that it is really hard to have a sense for what is a ‘serious’ swear word and what is for everyday use, in another language. But having said that – is it a generational thing? My mother still won’t even say ‘damn’.
Had a big chuckle at you being the Lou FG Blog!! Actually I just had a conversation with my parents about how often I’m hearing the F word on the BBC these days, so it’s everywhere. I’m like you, I feel the need to use it myself on occasions and rather enjoy it as a word when the situation merits 😉
My recent stay is the longest I’ve lived in the UK for 20 years so I was rather surprised at it’s everyday TV use. But even the ITV commenters covering the Roland Garros final when one of the players let out an audible FFuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck said ‘I think it’s clear the player is not happy with the shot, sorry if he’s offended anyone!’
I was brought up to know ‘nice girls don’t use it’ which of course meant that I was thrilled to say it. Your kids clearly know it is not a word you like and now it is so commonplace that hopefully they are not so excited to use. Anyway luckily bilingual kids have a choice of words and ‘Merde’ always sounded sooooo much better, or is that just the uneducated British in me? …. running before you tell me to ‘F off!’
I’m with you as well. I use it frequently as an exclamation (eg when I stub my toe, or drop something, or have a near miss while driving), but although I don’t get offended by others using it in conversation, I actually very rarely use it in the course of a normal conversation myself. I agree that there’s something indefinably offensive about hearing it used in such an OTT manner by a non-native speaker. I’ll try and tag in a friend who’s teaching English in Spain and has had similar experiences with the after-school singing club!
PS really enjoyed this post!
I wonder if it’s because it’s in English so it isn’t really considered a swear word? My dad used to swear in French when we were young, somehow it didn’t seem as shocking and he’d never have said the same words in English! Perhaps it was because his year in France as a student was the only “wild” days of his life as he got married and started having children very soon after graduation (as well as joining the stuffy old FCO). Anyway going off on a tangent here… I wouldn’t like to hear all that swearing on the radio but guess it’s just another good example of how different expat life can be, depending where you are.
Funnily enough I had a very similar conversation today with a really lovely lady selling hand-made (beautifully hand-made) bags, pochettes, jewellery etc etc. On one of her linen pochettes she had embroidered, in a beautiful, elegant script, the very word you’ve mentioned. On others were stars, moustaches, cherries… I asked her if she would do a pochette with ‘enculer’ embroidered… I know her quite well now and I told her that as a Brit I felt walloped with all the violence of that particular word and I found it really shocking. We talked about how, it seems to me, English swear words are becoming run of the mill in France and the French don’t seem to realise how inappropriate it is to use them like they do. I too am glad I’m not the only one. She completely understood my point of view but another lady present clearly thought I was a head case and said ‘we’ (I) would just have to get used to it. I said I wouldn’t.
Hi Phoebe. I am SO with you on this. I have been known to use the F word, probably far too much at times, but I hate the way it is used all the time in public and in the media. I think a good swear word should be in the confines of your own conversation with the person you are conversing with or quite often just to yourself!, not spoken for all and sundry to hear it. I absolutely abhor the thought that my grandchildren, all old enough to know the word and to know not to use it , will grow up, as you say, believing it to be a perfectly acceptable part of modern language. I certainly see no justification at all for some “smart” marketing people to call the French radio station such. Phew! I’m glad I’ve got that off my chest – I’ve never heard of the FGM radio station and will certainly not tune in – it would make me Effing mad!!