Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Breaking barriers

On the subject of bad language (see previous post), my friend Jarrod is delighted that he has got the F word into the latest Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. He wrote a piece for cricket's Bible on players who use Twitter and mentioned Tim Bresnan, the England all-rounder, getting into trouble for swearing at a reader.

While most newspapers who reported the story a few months ago asterisked out Bresnan's swear word, Jarrod inserted it unedited when he filed his piece to Wisden. He swears a lot on his blog, Cricket With Balls, but mainly, as he says, because that is what he does when he talks. He didn't expect Wisden to let it through without the asterisk treatment, but somehow that is what has happened.

So there, on page 1,628, is what the Telegraph claims is the first ever obscenity to appear in Wisden. An historical moment, indeed, and one that Jarrod should be proud of.

Or is it? I've not actually bothered to do any research on this, but I'm pretty convinced that Wisden has featured swearing lots of times. Such as in 1961 when a report on Fred Trueman taking 175 wickets in the previous county summer ended with the quote: "Fuck me, I'm bloody knackered."

Eight years later, an article by John Arlott on the apartheid situation in South Africa referred to John Vorster, the Prime Minister, as "an utter shit".

Then there was the 1934 Wisden, which looked back on the Bodyline Ashes and included an article by Douglas Jardine entitled "That Twat Bradman".

Throughout the 1970s, Wisden had an annual column called Tosser of the Year, which focused on the prowess of various county captains at calling heads or tails before their games. Geoff Boycott won most years, of course, even in 1979 when he no longer captained Yorkshire.

And of course who can forget the infamous 1985 edition, written on a typewriter that had a malfunctioning 'o' key, which repeatedly referred to the Cunty Champinship?

Finally, and this one is true, there was a cock on page 657 of the 2000 Wisden. A real one. Matthew Brimson, an undistinguished Leicestershire cricketer, decided to let his modesty hang out of his trousers during the team photo and it appeared in print.

Matthew Engel, the editor at the time, was unimpressed although got revenge beautifully, saying: "If you are going to pull this kind of stunt, you need to be a more competent professional sportsman than Matthew Brimson - and, frankly, more impressively arrayed."

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