I never fail to enjoy Iain Murray’s tireless weekly attempts to drag the new-fangled world of marketing kicking and screaming back to the mid-Fifties. I understand too, that for him, a Blighty minus David Ogilvy, Arthur Askey and national service must be a terrifying place indeed. That said, I am proud, nay privileged, to be one of Lord Murray’s precious few points of contact with the present day.
But the time has come for me to reply to his constant petty dismissal of fcuk. (Yes, Iain ‘to diss’ is now a verb as well as a road-sign in Norfolk. Oh, and worse still, Egg is no longer powdered, it’s a bank. Be afraid.)
First, to the idea of fcuk itself and Murray’s ludicrously antiquated views on the time it takes to have an idea. (“All day to come up with fcuk?!”) What IS the optimum gestation period for an idea, Iain? A week? A month? A career?
One of the most fascinating character traits of every single critic of fcuk is their irresistible urge to indulge in a little fcuk wordplay themselves. I’ve made a collection, including ‘fcuking offensive’, ‘fcuk me’, ‘Which tawt wrote this…?’ Murray himself once even stooped to the depths of ‘cnut’ (MW August 28 1997).
It’s such a pity to see critics toss away the moral high ground of their argument by lowering themselves time and time again to my grubby adolescent level. Why do they do it? To cause a fuss? To get noticed? To successfully draw attention to their cause via a startlingly memorable typographic mnemonic? Surely not. That would be offensive.
Which leaves us with the old ‘But anybody could have done that’ chestnut. I’m told that whenever the hugely successful novelist Nick Hornby attends a football match, he’s harangued by gormless hordes of shaven-headed twonks eager to remind him that they too are passionate about football and that each and every one of them could easily have dashed off Fever Pitch in a spare afternoon.
Damien Hurst famously answered his critics by stating “Yes, anyone could have dumped a dead shark in formaldehyde and flogged it to an adman for a million. But they didn’t, did they? I did.”
Yes, Iain, I dare suppose “a dyslexic child could have penned fcuk in a second”. But they didn’t, did they? And neither are they therefore responsible for the retail fashion success story of the decade. For an increase in share price of over &£5. For a turnover hike of 40 per cent three years running. For a profit increase of 50 per cent. For some 500,000 fcuk fashion t-shirts sold worldwide.
No, that distinction lies fairly and squarely with Mr Stephen Marks at French Connection UK and TBWA. And don’t we fucking love it, matron? As Kenneth Williams would loved to have said on air.