Cock stars and unparliamentary language

mordauntThe Mail on Sunday reports that Penny Mordaunt MP used the word “cock” in Parliament as the result of a bet.

The alleged newspaper describes how she crafted a speech about poultry, supporting ”the cause of hen and cock welfare”.

Or, as they put it:

Communities Minister Penny Mordaunt said ‘c**k’ six times

I’ve often doubted the point of using asterisks for swearwords. The word still makes its journey from the writer’s head to the reader’s. The communication happens as normal because the intent is clear.

I suppose the usual reason is to protect any young children who might see it – but I wonder whether that really works.

In this case, writing “c**k” instead of “cock” seems doubly silly, and not just because it’s a fairly mild swearword. (You’ll note that they didn’t put “c***” – that is, they printed enough to make the word perfectly clear.)

The whole point of Mordaunt’s speech, and of any such innuendo, is that the word used is nominally innocent: a cock is a male bird. Nobody would censor that. But the Mail has decided that, because of Mordaunt’s secret intent while saying it, it cannot be printed.

So here, the Mail has judged that intent is reason to censor a word, but to do so in a way that leaves that intent clear. Daft.

In passing, I note that the article begins: “A female Tory Minister…” The Mail still thinks it necessary to point out that a woman doing a Proper Job is a woman, as if her name and the huge photo of her aren’t enough to make that clear. That, rather than a minor piece of parliamentary childishness or any amount of cockery, is what dismays me.

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