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Here Are The Swearwords TV Viewers Find The Most Offensive

According to a panel of viewers who took part in a new Ofcom survey, "arse" is fine but "motherfucker" is strictly post-watershed.

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Media regulator Ofcom on Friday released a study into which words TV viewers find the most offensive that reveals just how tolerant Brits are when it comes to swearing on screen.

Almost 250 viewers took part in the in-depth study, telling researchers their reactions to a range of programmes that included 150 mild – and some not-so-mild – examples of offensive language.

"Arse" and "minger" were said to be among the milder words.

Thinkstock / BuzzFeed News
Thinkstock / BuzzFeed News

These were light-hearted insults that might be said around children and would be expected to be used in TV before the 9pm watershed, participants said. Other mild words included "bugger", "bloody", "cow", crap", "git" and "sod-off".

However, "munter" and "bollocks" were more problematic.

BuzzFeed / Thinkstock
Thinkstock / BuzzFeed News

These words were considered acceptable before 9pm depending on their context. Some words could have multiple meanings, but where they are meant as a vulgar reference to human anatomy – e.g. "pussy", meaning vagina – they were considered more offensive, the survey found.

"Bellend" was considered to be among the strongly offensive words, which shouldn't be used pre-watershed, as was "punani".

Thinkstock / BuzzFeed News
Getty / Anthony Harvey / BuzzFeed News

Other terms from the strongly offensive category include "bastard", "beef curtains", "dickhead", "fanny", "gash", "nob", and "twat".

But the most strongly offensive words were considered to be "fuck" and "motherfucker".

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Viewers who took part in the study considered these less acceptable to be said in front of children and expected them to be used after 9pm onscreen.

But the most offensive word, according to British TV viewers is of course...

Thinkstock / BuzzFeed News

Viewers had particularly strong reaction to the use of this word.

The study pointed out that some viewers – especially women – felt very strongly that it shouldn't be heard on TV at all.

"Women were more likely to say it was completely unacceptable, based on its strong vulgar cultural associations. Some women and a few men said they were personally offended and would prefer ‘c*nt’ not to be used on TV or radio at all," it said.

Here's the full list of non-discriminatory, general usage swearwords.


So, in short, some swearwords are much worse than others.

Patrick Smith is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Patrick Smith at

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