Comment – Should Swearing Be Bleeped

Twenty years ago it was hard to find any sort of profanity before the late night TV schedules began. Not only was swearing never heard but nor was it allowed to happen only to be blanked out as is the case in shows today.

This change from a blanket ban to the use of beeping got me wondering what the point was. The general opinion seems to be that hiding the swear word stops children knowing what it is; the act also reduces the offence caused to more sensitive listeners.


As far as protecting children is concerned, I would suggest that a bleep is pointless. If the youngster is old enough to be watching such a programme, the likelihood is they already know plenty of offensive words. Certainly most of my peers were well aware of such things by the time they passed their tenth birthday, and that was before the internet lowered every bar. So, if a twelve-year-old should hear the phrase, get off me you mother-[beep], I’m willing to bet they know the word that’s been hidden. Even if they don’t, I do wonder if the sentiment behind it affects them more than the word.

This is much like the instances when you’re in the car with the children, someone cuts you up and to vent your frustration you still let go with some harsh language, but change the worst word for an entirely different one: mother-fudger, for example. Do you really expect your child not to know what you’ve said, or miss the point that you’re angry at someone? Would you be surprised if the person you’re non-swearing at was still offended? Even if you only do this sort of switch during casual, more light-hearted swearing, would you be happy hear your child mimicking you when you’re chatting to the vicar?

So why obscure the word? Are you simply making yourself feel better?

Allow me to suggest that instead of bleeping yourself you should learn not to fly off the handle so much, and that rather than worry if your child has understood that the word fucker was hidden in that TV show you’re both watching, try teaching her when she should and shouldn’t use such language.