BBC Radio Leicester Thought for the Day
© John Denney 27 June 2003
I don’t know why I was offended, but I was. Greg Rusedski was on the receiving end of what he thought was a wrong umpiring decision, and he lost it. On prime time TV he let rip with language that would have made a trooper blush. I’m not an expert, but he seemed to use just about every profanity going. At least he had the grace to apologize for his unseemly outburst, once his temper had cooled.
Perhaps I had a model of Greg in my mind: a cool, civilized, motivated professional who could brush off unfairness and get on with the job. Maybe it was the shattering of that illusion that offended me. It seems we have to accept the use of offensive language in all sorts of TV programmes and films these days. Is it me, or does the “strong language from the start” warning so often broadcast have a whiff of hypocrisy? If the broadcaster knows the language will offend, shouldn’t they take steps to mitigate it before making the programme?
Maybe it’s the poverty and repetitive banality of modern swear words that offends me. There used to be some splendid Elizabethan curses. What about “Thou beslubbering beef-witted bugbear”, “Thou spleeny base-court malt-worm” or “Thou spleeny rough-hewn clotpole”, for example. Or a hundred years later, the great insult “Sir, under pretence of keeping a bawdy-house, your wife is in fact a receiver of stolen goods”. So much more inventive, don’t you think?
But maybe it’s the fact that so often swearing goes hand in hand with aggression that is the root of my being offended. People don’t curse when they’re being kind. People don’t swear when they’re given praise. People don’t use bad language when things are going well. The Bible has some wise advice: You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips.
And why does the Bible say this? Because anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language are negative and destructive, both for the hearer and the speaker. Let’s make a conscious effort today not to cause offence. Keep that expletive to ourselves. Maybe we can make the world a better place.
 Colossians 3:7-8, NIV