14. Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport

OLYMPIANS...

  • Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport | 
  • Released: 2009 All Tomorrow’s Parties | 
  • Produced: Andrew Weatherall | 
  • Genre: Paul Oakenfold accidentally stumbling into a metal gig while having an extremely bad trip | 

WASH YOUR MOUTH OUT…

OK, yes: the band are called Fuck Buttons.

Is that genius, or a really misguided move? It probably depends who you ask.

While it may have gained them some attention, their name ensured that no song of theirs could ever get any radio airtime: one of the most significant, established routes for up and coming musicians. It’s like a philosophical brain-teaser: if you’ve got an attention-grabbing name, but no one has ever heard of you, is there even any attention to grab? It’s a beautiful act of self-sabotage.

And that’s what makes swear words so interesting. They’re extremely effective in the right contexts, but, due to certain social stances, they are sometimes looked down upon as vulgar or low-brow.

Alright, with this double-edged sword in mind, here’s a question for you.

Fair warning, though: it’s a question that has kept many a marketing manager up at night. It gives anyone who has ever said that copywriters should “write like they talk” some pause for thought. It brings even seasoned bloggers out in a cold sweat.

Ready? 

OK, here it comes…

The question is:

Can I swear in my content?

Well, why the fuck not?

There’s around 171,500 words in the English language. So why should a just couple of these words – ancient, four letter ones at that – be so taboo?

There are, of course, laws that dictate the language that is permitted to be used in broadcasting and advertising, and swear words are pretty emphatically banned. Sure, there have been plenty of instances of people swearing on live radio and pre-watershed TV (almost always followed by a swift, embarrassed “apologies for the language there” from the presenter) and advertisers have tried to get creative to swear without swearing, but generally, you won’t see or hear swearing on your telly before 9 pm of an evening. It’s all so… Victorian.

The thing is, though, we’re all grown-ups. Pretty much everyone I know swears. And no one minds. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t watch TV and films with swearing in. And in the era of on-demand streaming, what the hell does the watershed even matter now? I can watch The Thick Of It’s Malcolm Tucker launch into a foul-mouthed diatribe over a mug of coffee at 7 in the morning, if I feel like it. As Tucker would have it: “from bean to cup, you fuck up.” Ahh, there it is.

Swear words are just so powerful. “Fuck” is a fantastic word with so many different applications. You could write a whole dramatic scene with “fuck” in different intonations as the only dialogue. Swearing is versatile, it’s cutting, it can intensify a point beautifully. And University of Rochester research from 2017 suggests that there is a correlation between people who swear frequently and higher IQ.

So doesn’t it just seem a shame not to use it when writing marketing copy? If what you’re looking to do (and, it should be) is to make a 1-on-1 connection with your reader, build up a relationship and convince them to trust you that you know what product they should buy or service they should use, why not speak to them like the adult that they are? Why not demonstrate your intellect and your command of language?

So, swearing in your content. Why not? Fill your boots.

 

That said, though, there are some things to keep in mind if you’re going to use swear words in content properly. 

Don’t be willy-nilly with your shits. Don’t take a scattergun approach with your fucks. Follow these rules:

Know your brand TOV, know your audience and know your context.

Swearing still comes with hang-ups, and until these words are fully normalised there will always be contexts that aren’t quite right and audiences that disapprove. Just take a step back and consider it for a while: just because there’s nothing wrong with it, doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be strange from a brand tone of voice perspective if John Lewis came out with a new campaign tomorrow and started dropping F-bombs. 

Keep an eye on deeper meanings, too: there’s another four letter swear word which I haven’t used anywhere in this post, not because I’m a prude, but because it strays over into the language of misogyny, and I’m not cool with that. Words are just words, but certain words (slurs, namely) have a lot of extra baggage. So just be careful and be mindful of your audience’s feelings. The context has to be right, and you should always check with your client before you deliver something with swearing in it.

Speaking of context…

Don’t swear in an email newsletter.

Purely practical, this one. Some professional email services will automatically block emails with swearing in them. If you want to ensure a newsletter will get to its audience, steer clear of the naughty words to get through prudish firewalls.

Don’t swear for the sake of edginess. 

You don’t want to be that teenager with the “I don’t care what you think” patch delicately sewn onto their rucksack. Because all signs indicate that that teenager does actually care what people think. Far too much, if anything. Your audience can tell if you’re trying too hard to be edgy. Just be natural and write like you talk.

Speaking of which…

Don’t overuse swear words.

OK, pay attention here, this is an important one. If you really want to use a swear word to its maximum effect, then you need to remember that less is more. Carefully deployed, a well-placed swear word can creep up on your reader and cut through all the noise to bring emphasis right to the heart of your fucking point.

But the really shit thing about swear words in fucking writing, is that the more you fucking use the fucking little shits, the less fucking effective they fucking end up being, the bastards. It’s fucked up, See what I fucking mean? These shitty little words are no fucking use to any bastard now. Useless.

So don’t overuse swear words. The shock factor wears off fast, and without that initial thrust of impact, it just comes off as crass. Think of your content piece as a meal: swear words should be the seasoning, sprinkled over the top to give everything a little more oomph. They’re not the meat or potatoes.

 

But what’s that I hear? “That’s all well and good for you to say in this blog post on your own website, but can you really guarantee that swearing isn’t going to put an end to my writing career?” Well, disembodied voice of an imagined argument for me to engage with as a segue into my next point, I can’t guarantee it, but I’ve got some anecdotal evidence that could prove pretty compelling.

Do you remember the 2012 Olympics in London?

Sure you do. It was a phenomenon. And one of your most vivid memories is probably the opening ceremony, right? Cast your mind back to that.

The presentation began with a video, sweeping over the Thames Barrier and following the river eastwards. Eventually it would pan down to David Beckham in a speedboat clutching the Olympic torch.

And the soundtrack for this video? A track called Olympians. By Fuck Buttons.

Their name didn’t stop them from having a track used in the centrepiece of one of the country’s biggest televisual events of the century so far. There was also a track by Blanck Mass  – the solo project of Benjamin John Power, one half of Fuck Buttons – used to accompany the footage. The opening ceremony was viewed by an estimated audience of 900 million.

A four letter word didn’t hold them back in 2012. Seven years have passed now. 

Let’s tell the prudish, Victorian attitudes to fuck off.

 

LIST-ENING

Wash your ears out and listen to this.

  1. Fuck Tha Police – N.W.A.
  2. Critically Acclaimed Shit – On The Spot Trio
  3. Fuck The Pain Away – Peaches
  4. Lovely Allen – Holy Fuck
  5. Little Bastard Choo Choo – Sparklehorse
  6. Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta Fuck Wit – Wu-Tang Clan
  7. Some Jazz Shit – FaltyDL
  8. Zodiac Shit – Flying Lotus
  9. Tree Shit – Tree
  10. Shitsville – Freddie Gibbs, Madlib
  11. Hey Fuck You – Beastie Boys
  12. Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole – Martha Wainwright
  13. New Colors – Holy Shit, Ariel Pink
  14.  Supertouch/Shitfit – Bad Brains
  15. Too Drunk to Fuck – Dead Kennedys
  16. Nazi Punks Fuck Off – Dead Kennedys
  17. Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck) – Run The Jewels ft. Zack De La Rocha
  18.  Fuck Forever – Babyshambles
  19. Who The Fuck? – PJ Harvey
  20. Shitting with the Shaw – The Men
  21. Queen of Hearts – Fucked Up
  22. (Fuck) – DIIV
  23. Holy Shit – Father John Misty
  24. Unfucktheworld – Angel Olsen
  25. How Fucking Romantic – The Magnetic Fields
  26. Let’s Not Shit Ourselves (to Love and to Be Loved) – Bright Eyes

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