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Never Mind The Wingdings

Warning: two mild profanities

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Site News Laurence Sterne, the 18th century novelist, was an accomplished practitioner of visual jokes on the written page. In his landmark comic novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, a long black squiggle represents the movement of a stick. This is possibly the first typographical joke in the English language.

In a small way, we upheld this tradition with a small story for the weekend. Or so we thought. Heralding an announcement of a new t-shirt line, this article had the word "bollocks" in the headline.

The joke was that the headline was written in wingdings, so satirising conspiracy theorists who somehow read the NYC tragedy in this typeface. (Our original story on Net conspiracy theorists was one of the more popular on the site in recent weeks with more than 100,000 reads and 200-plus emails.)

Unfortunately, our wingdings headline did not render in some browsers, turning our typographical triumph into something rather more boorish.

Bollocks is a mild profanity in English English, but it is not obscene (a court case over the Sex Pistols album "Never Mind the Bollocks" established this).

Nevertheless, it has no place as a headline on our front page, in any typeface, or language.

Bugger Bognor

And now to Bugger, a word as mild a profanity in English English as one can find.

Yesterday we received dozens of bouncers for our daily email news update. The cause? Corporate firewalls had rejected two headlines - our wingdings piece, and the classic "Bugger Hastings".

Here's some context for people outside the UK: there is no sexual innuendo. "Bugger Bognor" are the last words of George V, uttered after he was told by his doctor that he should go to this Sussex seaside resort to recuperate. (Contemporary newspapers reports published rather different dying words: "How is the Empire?" the old goat was supposed to have said.)

Hastings is a seaside resort in Sussex. It is to be an e-city and lots of government money is to be pumped into it. We raised our eyebrows, and several readers, some of them Sussex locals, agreed. The headline Bugger Hastings works for us - but not for the blunderbuss word-blankers behind corporate firewalls. Bugger, alas, joins a list of words banished forever from our front page. ®

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