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Bloody authentic

Want to sound like you’re telling the truth? Slip ’em the s-word.

SwearComic
Photo/Thinkstock


Twitter can be a blur and a blare and a bore, but for fast-breaking news, it’s essential. Even then, however, it might not be telling the truth. In the “frenzied maelstrom of social media”, writes Alfred Hermida, a Canadian journalism professor, for the BBC News Magazine, research helps to “sort fact from fiction”.

A crucial clue is swearing. A “string of expletives” denotes, apparently, authenticity. One example comes from Mike Wilson, who was aboard the plane that skidded off a Denver runway in 2008. “The tweet announcing the news to the world started off with the word ‘Holy’, followed by the f-word and the s-word, ending ‘I wasbjust in a plane crash!’”

Such a typo or misspelling is instructive, too, writes Hermida, although exclamation and question marks are suspect. “Researchers have found that credible messages tend not to use these. The news is dramatic enough.” And terms such as “breaking news” increase the likelihood the “witness” is fibbing. “Messages that mimic what journalists say deserve a degree of extra caution.”

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The BBC has long been anxious about swearing. At The Vault, the history blog for US site Slate, Rebecca Onion dusts off the “Guidelines for Light Entertainment Producers on matters of Taste” as published by the British Broadcasting Corporation, or “Auntie”, as it is affectionately known, in 1948. “Programmes must at all cost be kept free of crudities, coarseness and innuendo,” comes the counsel. “Humour must be clean and untainted directly or by association with vulgarity and suggestiveness ... There can be no compromise with doubtful material. It must be cut.”

Specifically, there is “an absolute ban” on jokes about “lavatories, effeminacy in men, immorality of any kind”, as well as any “suggestive references to honeymoon couples, chambermaids, fig leaves, prostitution, ladies’ underwear (eg winter draws on), animal habits (eg rabbits), lodgers, commercial travellers.” All good advice. And: “extreme care should be taken in dealing with references to or jokes about pre-natal influences (eg ‘His mother was frightened by a donkey’).”

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A 10-year-old boy vacationing in the East Hamptons, holiday playground for super-wealthy New Yorkers, has granted an interview to The Daily Summer. In the piece, excerpted online by FashionWeekDaily.com, he considers, among other things, the relationship between child and nanny.

Asked, “What are the responsibilities of your nanny?” our subject replies: “When she picks me up, she has to bring my phone. Every day she has to charge my phone to 99%; I don’t want to overcharge it. She stays with me when my mom is away. I’m a little bit demanding and picky. I’m specific about my food. If the cherry has something in it, like a seed, I don’t want it. I like everything in order. My nanny is also the only person who can touch my gadgets, because she cleans up my room. She also organises my colognes and combs.”

As ever, alas, the tale is tinged with sadness. How long will the nanny, who has been with the lad since he was two, remain? “My mom has promised me that my nanny will be with me until I go to college,” he says. “I’m not sure what happens to her then, but we don’t really talk about it.”

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Much like the Listener, the Financial Times is blessed with a knowledgeable and punctilious readership. Take, for example, this recent letter to the editor. “Sir, Your big Minecraft picture on the front page of your Life & Arts section (July 4) is wrong,” it begins. In the computer game, he continues, “smoke does not come out of chimneys and doors cannot be a light colour. Doors need four boxes at the top of them. Trees have to be round and not any other shape and you put the trees a rectangle shape. The clouds have to be 3D. You put the clouds upright. The roof of a house cannot be blue. – Zorawar Bhangoo (age 6)”

Bhangoo, you’ll surely agree, could teach our 10-year-old friend in the Hamptons a thing or two.

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