Now we're talking

Where once we'd be told to wash our mouths out, 'rude' words are now a part of everyday conversation. Heather Neill talks dirty

What exactly are rude words? Often they are anatomical terms or describe a bodily function or sexual act. Old-fashioned childish examples would include bum, tit, pooh and willie. Now all these seem only innocently "naughty", although "tits", might still have the power to offend some feminists. "Belly" used to be offensive, but has been reinstated as a serious description of the part of the anatomy once referred to by the non-specific "tummy". Bosom, meanwhile, a serious word, is now almost always used jokily and in the plural. Two bosoms really would be hilarious and rather uncomfortable.

The "male organ of copulation" (as the dictionary has it) is much more often given its proper name, penis, in otherwise slangy conversation these days. The female equivalent, vagina, has tended to be muttered sotto voce until recently when The Vagina Monologues, a fashionable play, saw numerous celebrities both appearing in it and filling the airwaves with their delight about its subject matter.

The F-word is now ubiquitous and with an added "ing" an overwhelmingly popular modern adjective. Nobody bothered to bleep out the "fucks" in Big Brother, although the word "wanker" was disallowed. There were complaints when "cock-up" was uttered on the Today programme a few years ago, but this seems to be accepted in the politest circles.

Keep sending your comments - rude or otherwise.

Email: teacher@tes.co.uk

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