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Home > People

Richard Madeley: Cock

13 August 2004

In the society depicted in Kurt Vonnegut's short story 'The Big Space Fuck' (in which a rocket packed with 'six hundred pounds of frozen jizzum' is fired into space to impregnate Andromeda), the widespread use of profanity has become the norm. Indeed, swearing openly and often is considered a sign of intelligence; of good breeding. Even the President swears like a sailor's parrot. In reality, although we're still a long way from Blair and Howard tearing profane strips off each other across the floor of the house, traditional cuss-words have been rendered fairly innocuous by overuse. It's probably just as well then, that we're so adept at finding offence in other places.

In Holland this week a group calling themselves Small Intestines Anonymous have written to Dutch dictionary publishers to request that the word 'thin' removed from the dictionary. Although why an English word should be hanging about in a Dutch dictionary beats us. Even so, the SIA feel that the word is insulting to underweight people. They feel that 'thin' is a term of abuse used by the 'fat over-rulers'. But these people - every last one of the 3000 that signed the petition - are obviously insane. They should probably best be ignored. Slightly more interesting, although equally ignorable, is Richard Madeley, who this week was back in the news for another of his trademark cockish gaffes.

On Monday, Ofcom's fortnightly Programme Complaints Bulletin was published. The Bulletin contains information regarding the latest adjudications on complaints from members of the public. One of these concerned a ruling on the 9th June edition of the cultural tumour that is the Richard and Judy show. Madeley, whose head appears to be full of pus and cabbage leaves, used the word 'dyke' in a discussion about female sexuality. Two people complained that 'the way the word was used was homophobic'. Not the word itself, you understand. Just the way Madeley spat it out of his big slack mouth like a bitter almond.

In their defence, exasperated Channel 4 chiefs explained that there was nothing malicious or profane is Madeley's inane chatter. Apparently the presenter 'genuinely believed that the term was now widely used in popular culture and accepted by the gay community. On this basis, he was using the word simply to describe a woman's sexuality in a 'hip' way.' Poor old Richard.

He wouldn't know 'hip' if it jumped out of his shopping basket and hid itself in his pocket. Surely even a twelve-year-old understands that - if you don't want to run the risk of offending someone - there are certain words which only those they describe are allowed to use. 'Nigger' being the most obvious. Using Madeley's logic, might he not also have described Will Smith as 'one fly nigger'? Yes. He might. But no, he isn't malicious. He's just a cock.

You can kind of understand the people that complained. They were under the impression, rightly or wrongly, that Madeley was the holder of offensive, discriminatory views, and no-one wants Shabba Ranks presenting teatime talk shows. But to go to the trouble of getting a commission together to thrash the whole thing out and resolve the complaint seems just a little bit too much like burning money. In our eagerness to take offence, we tend to make a melodrama out of the merely inane. Couldn't the producer of the show simply have told Madeley to go on air and say: 'Look, I'm sorry, OK? I didn't know. I thought it was hip. I also think the word 'hip' is hip. I'm a cock. Please don't fire me. I'm an institution.' At which point Judy could have accidentally flashed her baps again and all would have been well with the world.

Which is more or less what happened in the end anyway, apart from the bap-flash.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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