Stay classy, WH Smith!


This is a set of fridge magnets. It’s on sale in the branch of WH Smith on the main concourse on Manchester Piccadilly railway station. This display is helpfully located between the books for children and the soft drinks and sweets. It’s on a low rack, just about at eyeball level for your average six-year-old. It’s tacky and crass and totally inappropriate, and the individual who decided to display it there, in the area of the store where children are most likely to see it, pretty much has to be genuinely stupid.

It’s not, actually, precisely the word itself that bothers me. I certainly can’t claim that I never use it myself, although I do wince when I hear it used, as it often is, as either punctuation or a substitute for the word ‘very’. I don’t have a problem seeing it in print either, and I’m not particularly offended by it – but the word itself, here, is only part of the point.

What I do find offensive is the idea that a profanity with potent layers of meaning attached to it, that a significant number of people still consider to be an absolute taboo – it’s a word that, for example, I have never ever heard my mother use – should be devalued to the point where it can be plastered all over a set of tacky fridge magnets and put on sale in a newsagent’s shop between a shelf full of books for children and a display of sweets and Coca-Cola. I don’t have a problem, as I said, with the word itself – but context is everything, and in this context, it’s tasteless. Words, including this one, exist to be used – but words this strong need to be treated with respect.


One thought on “Stay classy, WH Smith!

  1. Yup — totally inappropriate. I can remember in the late 60s there was ONE showing of a program called “turn on, tune in, drop out.” There were so many complaints about the crassness and utter lack of taste that the networks cancelled it the next day. It would be considered quite tame today. there is a show in the UK watched by my housemate — “disgusting bodies” or some such thing. One night they had on various tours of women’s private parts and how they were surgically fixed. [My flatmate is a nurse, so you’d think she’d have seen enough already….] I really don’t want to walk in the living room any time day or night to look at someone’s twat. As far as I can tell on “regular” TV rather than cable. Tacky, to say the least.

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