Fricking is no effing f-bomb when you’re flogging a car
Watchdog disagrees with radio listener who argues the word ‘fricking’ is a euphemism for the word ‘f**king’
Arrange the following words in order of offensiveness: effing, fricking and f**king.
That’s the task the advertising watchdog set itself after Meryl Turner complained about a radio ad that included the phrase “fricking painless”.
After analysing the Oxford Dictionary, the Advertising Standards Authority issued a 1,569-word ruling about the three f-words, which concluded that “fricking” is child-friendly, “effing” not so much and the full-strength f-bomb is never to be uttered.
Turner was outraged by an ad on 5FM for Webuycars.co.za featuring one character relentlessly insisting “we buy cars” and the other posing as a potential customer who concludes: “Wow. That’s fricking painless.”
Turner complained: “The commercial is offensive as it uses the word ‘fricking’ which, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is a euphemism for the word ‘f**king’.
“It is totally unnecessary, crass and bears no relevance to the product. Further, the word is not suitable for children who listen to the radio.”
Webuycars is not a member of the Advertising Standards Authority and did not defend itself, but the ASA made a ruling anyway “for the guidance of its members”.It pointed out that it had previously countenanced the innocuous use of “OMG” and “WTF” and ruled that “effing fast” would not offend the hypothetical reasonable adult but was unsuitable for children’s ears.
“There are a number of replacements for the word ‘f**king’ and ... most of them are considered socially acceptable for use by adults,” it said.
“From the material at hand, it is apparent that an adult consumer would not consider the word ‘fricking’ offensive. Euphemisms are not necessarily vulgar. It depends on the application and circumstances within which they are used.”
Previous rulings on similar complaints had related to beeped-out words. “In other words, it was clear that the word ‘f**k’ or ‘f**king’ was being replaced; the replacement ... was a word that children might get into trouble for saying.
“In the matter at hand, the directorate is not convinced that the same reasoning applies. In the first place, the execution contains no beeped-out words. The word ‘fricking’ is therefore not being explicitly used to replace a vulgar swear word.”
The second point of differentiation was the word itself, which was defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “an adjective used for emphasis or to express anger, annoyance, contempt or surprise”.
“Effing”, meanwhile, was “an adjective used as a euphemism for ‘f**king’, for emphasis or to express annoyance.”
The ruling said: “It is therefore clear that the word ‘fricking’ is regarded as a much milder word than ‘effing’. This resonated with the directorate, who were unanimous that the word ‘fricking’ coming from a child would cause considerably less consternation and possible trouble than the word ‘effing’.”
The use of “fricking” in the Webuycars ads was therefore not harmful to children. Turner’s complaint was dismissed.