Bollocks!

Using profanity during a political interview is usually a ‘no-no’ for politicians, especially during a general election when you are trying to put yourself forward as a potential foreign secretary, as Emily Thornberry was on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday.

Thornberry ‘gets away’ with the  using the term however because of the way it is articulated with special prosodic and paralinguistic features to soften the utterance and to indicate it should be taken as light-hearted, humorous comment within a more serious discussion.

Prosody & paralinguistics

The term (‘bollocks’) under question is articulated in the 3rd line in the transcript below (>>). The slight pause before the utterance and its quiet articulation (as indicated by the double oodegree signsoo) in comparison to the surrounding text act to defuse the offending term and remove the harshness that is normally associated with it (in British discourse).

ET: you’ve just said (.) for example
    that I want to (.) negotiate the future of the Falklands
>>  that is (.) oobollocksoo
    I did not=
AM: =that is what
ET: [hhhhh ((laughter))
AM: [(please) say it again come on
    that is
ET: it is untrue
AM: that is untrue
ET: hhhh ((laughter))

ET: Emily Thornberry
AM: Andrew Marr

External link to audio clip

The waveform below indicates how softly the term was articulated in comparison to the surrouding words, under the breath, in order to produce this effect.

that_is_bollocks

The resulting laughter and smiles indicate that the term was accepted as intended and not as an insult.

 


The Andrew Marr show, BBC, 14th May 2017. http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/
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