In a recent survey nearly a thousand people were asked their opinions concerning bad language on television.

Its finding suggested that racist and sexist words were increasingly offensive, while tolerance towards blasphemy was becoming more the norm.

I find it depressing that the English language, in all its magnificent glory, is used by fewer and fewer people. It seems to be modern to use swear words and obscenities where a generation or two earlier more acceptable and descriptive words enriched conversation and literature.

Even regional and slang words appear to be giving way to the coarseness of thoughtless expressions that mean very little. These words add nothing in the way of communication, description or ideas. Instead they debase a golden medium.

The report also highlighted the strange fact that words ridiculing race and sexual orientation seem to have superseded those aimed at deriding religion.

This perhaps says something about the society in which we live. Of course racism and sexism in language are to be deplored but to those who have a faith, and I include myself in this group, using the names of deities important to that faith as swear words also hurts a great deal.

To say that blasphemy is less important than racist and sexist comments in today's society seems to be ignoring the fact that for those people whose faith is a vital part of their lives such a language has a 100 per cent impact and demeans their belief.

One of the main thrusts of the report seems to be saying that people who have little control over the language they use also have an equally small amount of control over their lives.

I wonder if the growing incidence of road-rage is a symptom of this unfortunate trend. In its conclusion the survey, entitled Bad Language - What are the Limits?, makes the point that 'the lazy use of language (is) indicative of an impoverished society and (represents) a disintegration of cultural values. In addition to poverty in the material sense a large number of our fellow citizens are enduring another kind of poverty, ie cultural, and by implication, moral values.

One wonders at the reason for the seemingly universal use of swear words in today's society. Could it be that people's education was so poor that they were never exposed to the magnificent literature of Shakespeare, Dickens and the like?

If the output of these people was so lacking in power and imagery how is it that so many TV programme makers and film makers can find such wonderful material for their productions? As children was it so boring that they were turned off by the magic of Byron, Keats and the host of wonderful poets of which this country can justifiably be proud?

Certainly, you can frighten the timid and the vulnerable by shouting obscenities and swear words at them, but does the use of such language advance any argument you might be making? I often walk around town and hear otherwise sensitive people inserting swear words into conversations, it's like using primary colours in a painting that really requires the use of subtle hues.

Not only does it add nothing to the content of the conversation, but it also confirms the linguistic paucity of the speaker.

Martin Clunes (of Men Behaving Badly fame) is reported to have said that the swear word is simply that: a word. I beg to suggest that most people continue to find bad language offensive and prefer not to hear it.

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.