Sunday 24 March 2024

Censorship and the Meaning of Words

On 24 March 2024, @elfbatross asks: All right, what's woke/anti-woke today then? paperclips? squares? the colour yellow? vaseline? door hinges? ear lobes?

@seanonolennon Mar 22 If words are violence, and silence is violence, and violence is violence, what isn’t violence?

“Fake Democrat” parodies that “borders are violence”. @votejgr claims “Evictions are violence”. 

And we’ve been told many times that words are violence. And back in the 60s the BBC had similar problems...

Round the Horne, Series 1, Episode 4

Kenneth Horne: The BBC Censors, whose job it is to force out hidden dirt. Wherever there is honi soit, there you will find them mal y pensing. Come with us now down the corridors of power to a small backroom in Broadcasting House... where the censors are in session.

Kenneth Williams: All right, all right, gentlemen, simmer down. There’s too much filth going out on the air, and it’s our job to stop it. Only this morning I heard a reference to a lady’s ankle!

Betty Marsden [pictured, left]: It’s Sodom and Gomorrah all over again!

KW: ...all over again!

Hugh Paddick: I agree. Where’s it going to end, that’s what I ask? Yesterday Mrs Dale said she had a ladder in her stocking!

BT: Ooooh!

HP: Where is it leading to is what I want to know?

BT: What about suggestive titles of programmes?

HP: Suggestive?

KW: What, what, what, eh? Oh, yes! Could you give me an example?

BT: Have a Go with Wilfred Pickles! Tell me! What's the implication of that?

KW: Mmmmm...

HP: I don’t see any harm in saying Have a Go. I mean It’s not going to corrupt the listeners. Anybody who listens to Have a Go is beyond corruption.

BT: It’s not that, it’s not that at all. It’s “pickles”, with its suggestion of vinegar. Everyone knows vinegar is alcoholic and we know what alcohol leads to...

KW: Ooooh, yea! [The meeting begins to take on the tone of a revivalist religious service.] Oh, sister, yea! Screamin’ and carryin’ on, and tearin’ their clothes off... fighting, the debauchery, and tearin’ their clothes off. At least, that’s what always ’appens in my case.

[The cast agree that Wilfred should change his name to Grated-Carrots, fluffing the obvious punchline that the programme should be called Have a Go with a Carrot. "And I defy anyone to find a double meaning in that!", challenges Betty Marsden.]

BT: Ah, gentlemen, I think we ought to do something about Take Your Partners. Gentlemen, who are they fooling? Take your partners for what?

HP: Well, surely it’s just Old-Tyme Dancing?

KW: Aaaaaaah! Dancing with each other! Holdin’ each other close. Their ’ot breath on each other’s neck! The proximity of warm flesh through the bombazine! Ooooh, the knees touchin’, women with their rouged cheeks and carmined lips, and the soft swell of their... Oooooh!

HP: Quick, quick, somebody, a damp sponge on the back of his neck.

KW: That’s better. Now, what else ’ave we got?

HP: A programme called Five to 10.

KW: Oooh, a suggestion of betting. Strike it out! 

HP: Let it be stricken!

BT: [High-pitched] Out with it!

KW: Aye, let it be cast out, brothers! For is it not sinful?

Omnes: Yea!

KW: And is it not written that we should go forth and scourge the fleshpots of the BBC with whips and scorpions?

Omnes: Yea!

The meeting degenerates into shrieks and shouts of “Hallelujah!”, and a brass band joins the fun. The programme itself fell foul of the BBC’s censorship in later episodes, and the cast were warned about “putting emphases on certain syllables”, by Mary Whitehouse, no less.

Censor (Kenneth Williams): Ah, Horne, I have to reprimand you on certain words and phrases used in last weeks show.

What words?

Last week you distinctly said: Hello.

Well whats wrong with that?

Oh come off it, Horne. We all know what "Hello" means. We all know what it suggests. It suggests "Hello, whats this I see through the keyhole? It's a scantily clad female doing an exotic dance with a ball of wool".

Good heavens, Sir, is that what it suggests?

Well that's what it suggests to me... And then there's your name.

What's wrong with "Kenneth Horne"?

Everyone knows that ground-up moose's horn is an aphrodisiac! The very title of your show is an inducement to loose living and carrying on... (pause) I've found. You'll have to change your name.

Douglas Smith (announcer): We now present Round the Larksley-Fortinbras.

Later, they had trouble with "without further ado", which suggested that some "ado" had been going on already...

More Kenneth Williams here.

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