Sunday, February 22, 2004

The state of the f-word

Reading an otherwise ho-hum John Birmingham Op Ed in the SMH, one thing caught my attention – the f-word; there in all its glory, or otherwise.

I had long thought that mainstream newspapers were one of the last few hold-outs, at least in Australia (the US is much more puritan), in prohibiting the f-word.

Doing a quick Google, it turns out that Birmingham is not being the pioneer that I thought he may have been. Searching against the SMH site reveals 42 discrete instances of “fuck” and 15 of “fucked”.

Interestingly (although this may be statistically biased by Fairfax articles dropping off the servers after a couple of years (a phenomenon which I’ve been previously been frustrated and perplexed by)), the oldest SMH use of the f-word in full was only in 2002.

By way of comparison, Melbourne’s The Age is prudish: “fucked” remains a virgin, with only itself for company, while “fuck”gets a mere five hits, four of which are from a concentrated period in mid-2003, with the remaining, last lonely “fuck” (isn't it always?) being found an online-only page.

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