Campaigners celebrate as ‘pranny’ finally de-listed as a swearword

Etymologists campaigning for the modernisation of British swearwords have scored a significant victory after it was announced that the word ‘pranny’ is to be removed from the official Government Register of Profanities and Derogatory Nouns. 

The register, published by the government on a bi-annual basis, lists words that are considered to be offensive or abusive and is used as a guideline by a variety of professions from broadcasters and journalists to publishers and teachers.  However according to its critics, the list in recent years has become ‘unwieldy and unusable’, not only because of the extra words being added in the wake of a series of high-profile broadcasting complaints, but also because of the plethora of obsolete words, like ‘pranny’, that litter the register. 

While it may seem pedantic to some, campaigners believe that the removal of ‘pranny’ – thought to be a hybrid of the old-English insults ‘prattler’ and ‘ninny’ – from the listing is a major, and indeed long-overdue, step towards modernisation.  ‘The last recorded use of the word ‘pranny’ in a genuinely derogatory context was back in the 1970’s during an episode of Grange Hill.’ claims swearing expert Dr.  Richard Tyler, ‘It has only survived on the list for so long due to its historical value – we have documentary evidence that it was the first word to be decreed a swearword by James I.’

According to government sources the de-listing of ‘pranny’ is the first step in a wider streamlining of the register, which will also see the removal of words like ‘perishing’, ‘cobblers’ and ‘spanner’.  This, Dr.  Tyler believes, will make room for more modern swearwords.  ‘We shall soon see words like ‘MoFo’ and ‘douchebag’ making their debut into the lexicon.  I also predict a widespread updating of anthroponomastic name-based insults, so that, for example, a ‘Richard the Third’ will be changed to a ‘Sir Fred Goodwin’.  It doesn’t lend itself to rhyming slang so easily, but it’s a damn sight more accurate.’

(Written 9 Apr 2009)

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Published in: on November 18, 2009 at 8:35 am  Leave a Comment  
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