Bad language is now the norm, I swear

Sometimes people get overly excited in the heat of an election. But even reputable commentators nowadays regularly pepper their talk shows with foul language

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 March, 2018, 6:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 March, 2018, 6:53am

People have long remarked on how low the city’s political discourses have sunk. Perhaps we are now reaching rock bottom as swear words and crude language have become an acceptable mode of public exchange.

Why is Hong Kong having its quietest election ever?

Several by-election volunteers for pro-government candidate Judy Chan Ka-pui were seen at the weekend not arguing with, but hauling verbal abuse at neighbours in Western, apparently over access to their building. The incident was captured on video, which has gone viral. One of the female volunteers was seen splashing the smartphone of the person making the clip.

With such help, the New People’s Party politician hardly needed enemies.

OK, sometimes people get overly excited in the heat of an election. But even reputable commentators nowadays regularly pepper their talk shows on the internet such as those on YouTube with foul language.

Foul language: it’s not what you say but how you say it

On his popular MyRadio online channel, former lawmaker and anti-communist pundit Raymond Wong Yuk-man practically swears with every other sentence and inevitably adds a rude epithet to whomever he is attacking, usually a government official or a local Beijing adviser.

Stephen Shiu Yeuk-yuen, the yellow-ribbon commentator, former newsman and scriptwriter, sometimes manages to be more outlandish than Wong.

Commenting on a spat he had with well-known writer Chip Tsao, Shiu once boasted in an online show how any one of his “pubic hair is thicker than Tsao’s thighs”.

Meant as an insult, he said it not one but twice, to the embarrassment of his two co-hosts. His biologically impossible boast doesn’t make any more sense in the original Cantonese than in English translation.

Both Shui and Wong are actually literati, whose command of the Chinese language, literature and history is superb and wholly admirable. But their populism means they want to appeal to a wide audience, and their language use tells you what they think of the intellectual interests and attainments of their fans.

Foul-mouthed Hongkongers will love this: the more you swear, the smarter you may be

Monkey see monkey do. Wong Yuk-man-wannabe Ernie Chow Shue-fung has his own online show. The former Chinese University student union president acquired citywide infamy last year after he was filmed going into a deranged and obscenity-filled tirade against several mainland students. You wouldn’t be surprised his show is also full of swear words.

Chow is perfectly capable of critically analysing jargon-filled official documents such as a Legislative Council bill like a pro. Alas!

Does all this matter? Swearing promotes emotionalism; it also signals you don’t want to hear alternative or rival views.