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Radio review: Do mention the f-word and the s-word and all the rest


Bob Geldof

Bob Geldof

Bob Geldof

What’s your favourite word?” (Professor) Terrence Dolan asked (journalist) Tanya Sweeney on Saturday’s Dave Fanning Show.

I can’t say,” said Sweeney, “I might get a fine or something.” “What’s the first letter?” asked Fanning (reluctant to let it go, fine or no fine).

“It actually begins with ‘S’,” said Sweeney, “it’s...skunk-effer.” “Fair enough,” said Fanning (sounding confused). “Huh?” said I (sounding confused). “Is it ‘scumbag’, is it? Because ‘scumbag’ is a used contraceptive,” asked Dolan (sounding, yes, confused).

And you’re probably, too...confused that is. So let’s rewind. “Where do you stand when it comes to using colourful language?” Fanning had, earlier, asked us, referencing Bob Geldof’s recent bout of ‘colourfulness’ on Sky News, before spinning off into an agreeably rambling discussion on the value of swearing. Or cursing. Or effing and/or blinding.

In the blue corner (as it were) was Sweeney - a “self-confessed colourful language user” (as Fanning put it) - who celebrated the emphatic power of a well-chosen cuss word. Not only do such words help us to “hammer home a point”, she suggested, but the act of cursing is also “really cathartic”, too. It’s a release, said Sweeney. It’s “good for your body”.

Dolan, her opponent, denied that an f-bomb, say, could ever be considered a “short-cut to making your point” (as Fanning suggested). Explosive expleting, he said, was all about “losing control” (and not in a good orgasmic kinda way). 

It was “pure laziness”, sniffed Dolan, to “use swear words which are offensive and obscene” when there are “millions of words in the English language” from which to choose.

But what if, Fanning wondered, someone nicked his parking space? Would he not then be tempted to unleash even a mildly cathartic “fiddlesticks!”?

“Never” said Dolan, doing his best impression of the type of  fusty/hidebound old prof who disapprovingly casts a withering (and monocled) eye on the modern world and all its vulgarities.

Speaking of blue corners, and bluer language, Dolan went on to have a pop at the “blue line of the Luas”. An obscure/imaginary line whose existence I wasn’t previously aware of. But real or not it apparently remains, in Dolan’s words, a “boiling cauldron of obscenity”. “That’s quite poetic,” said Sweeney, before gleefully declaring herself  “a boiling cauldron of obscenity”.

Sweeney – who was in fine form throughout – praised those who used “colourful language...creatively” and “with flair”, criticised sexist attitudes that demanded women be “ladylike and refined,” and playfully (and amusingly) sparred with her (very) straight man, Professor D.

“Sometimes,” she said, “a situation just calls for a C-word.” “I can’t think of one,” replied Dolan. “I can think of about 4000,” quipped Sweeney, “even just this morning.”

Funny f**ing stuff, though I’m still a bit in the dark as to what a skunk-effer actually is (beyond the obvious). Probably for the best.

“Compartmentalised sex.” That’s what an unnamed man (let’s call him ‘Man A’) told reporter Brian O’Connell he’d been looking for when he first started visiting ‘escorts’ and paying for sex.

That conversation, broadcast on Monday’s Today with Sean O’Rourke, was part of a two-day feature exploring the attitudes of “Irish men who pay for sex regularly” (relating to new legislation that “seeks to criminalise the buying of sex”).

O’Connell told O’Rourke that ‘Man A’ felt that “paying escorts for sex” was “more honest” (“more clear cut”, he called it) than “going to a nightclub” and attempting to talk someone into having sex with him.

‘Man A’ actually suggested that he “felt a little bit more guilty” about having sex with people he hadn’t paid.

The man O’Connell interviewed on Tuesday’s show had, in contrast, “never been in a proper relationship”, and had never had a sexual encounter he hadn’t paid for.

He spoke of his shyness, of his insecurity around women, of his embarrassment at remaining a virgin for so long, and of how, when he visited escorts, he was primarily “looking for a genuine, nice person to spend time with”.

Both men were asked how they could be sure that the escorts/sex workers they visited were not “victims of trafficking”.

Neither offered answers that were particularly convincing (the gist of the dubious argument being that the women couldn’t possibly fake their apparent level of contentment).

It was, however, still a revealing and eye-opening two-part piece, rounded off by O’Rourke hosting a solid (if short) debate

with representatives of various advocacy groups, whose (contrasting) views offered more nuanced insights into the lives of local sex workers.

The Dave Fanning Show (2FM, Saturday and Sunday) 

Today with Sean O'Rourke, RTE  radio 1, weekdays