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Alan Mackay reports
"Swear words are in the language to stay"
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Wednesday, 25 April, 2001, 19:46 GMT 20:46 UK
Swearing man escapes fine
Mr Kinnaird's fine was overturned on appeal
A man who was fined for swearing at police has been cleared after appeal judges ruled that he was using "the language of his generation".

Kenneth Kinnaird, 43, of Baillieston, Glasgow, was charged with breach of the peace and resisting arrest after he told two police officers who stopped him to "f*** off".

He was later fined 100 at Glasgow District Court, but on Tuesday the conviction was overturned by three judges at Edinburgh's Appeal Court.

The decision has been backed by an expert in the English language who said the term was widely used and often "meaningless".

It has certainly been around for a long time. I'm 60 and I can remember people effing and blinding all the time

Professor Charles Jones, Edinburgh University
The court heard that Mr Kinnaird swore at the officers after they asked him to stop so they could check if a warrant had been issued for his arrest.

But Lord Prosser, sitting with Lord Kingarth and Lord Eassie, said Mr Kinnaird's words were not shouted and did not appear to be anything other than a conversation.

The judge added: "Anyway, he uses the language of his generation."

The ruling has been backed by Charles Jones, Professor of English Language at the University of Edinburgh.

He said: "These terms are often used as adjectives and are meaningless, particularly when two people talk to each other.

'Common usage'

"You swear and I swear, especially when I'm on the golf course, but we are not insulting anyone."

But Professor Jones said he would have expected people to be careful about their language when addressing figures of authority.

Liam Gallagher
Liam Gallagher is notorious for his verbal outbursts
"It certainly is in common usage, but you expect people to tailor their language to the situation and to their advantage," he said.

"Given that, one might expect people confronted by police not to use swear words, but they are so endemic and the judge could be correct that no offence was intended."

He added: "But I suppose it's worth considering what the judge would have felt in court if he had asked a person a question and that person told him to f... off."

Professor Jones also said that the phrase was not particular to a new generation and had been around for many years.

"It has certainly been around for a long time. I'm 60 and I can remember people effing and blinding all the time."

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See also:

08 Mar 01 | Education
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