Andrew Brown follows the change between society’s taboos being primarily sexual to primarily racial in the last half century.
Jade Goody’s boyfriend had not called the Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty a “paki”, but a “cunt”, the spokesman explained. The latter word – he felt – was clearly less obscene than the former. He’s probably right, in the sense that it shocks far fewer people in modern Britain. It is much less likely to get you into trouble at school, for example. But this is till an example of a remarkable social shift, which has not been much noticed simply because it is so profound.
The change between society’s taboos being primarily sexual to being primarily about race has taken about 50 years…
They reflect things that are understood by particular societies to be dangerous and disruptive. So they don’t have to be sexual: in most of Scandinavia, and in Quebec, if you want to swear, you blaspheme. There are, of course, vulgar terms for sexual things, but they are vulgar, not obscene: shaming rather than shocking.