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In the past few years, there have been moves afoot in Russia to encourage citizens - young and old - to clean up their language. No mean task considering that Russian, in its daily spoken form, is estimated to contain 50% more swearing than English...

In 2003 proponents of the cause attempted to start at the top by introducing a bill to prevent Russian Senators from resorting to foreign words and swearing to "spice" up their speeches. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Senators - including President Putin - threw the bill out.

However, this summer supporters of the "clean up Russian" cause secured a more modest victory at regional level. For in July 2004 officials in Belgorod (700 km from Moscow), a region in western Russia on the border with the Ukraine, introduced a law banning swearing in public. Under the new law, using foul language in public is classified as hooliganism. Part of a "cleaner-living" programme for the region's young people, the ban has been rigorously enforced, with officials imposing on-the-spot fines of up to 1,500 rubles ($50/£28) for expletive-uttering offenders. Fines vary according to the severity of the offence and are higher if the swearing occurs in the company of older people or children.

Valentina Trunova, deputy head of Belgorod's department of youth affairs, told a BBC reporter that money collected from fines is being ploughed back into the campaign. Almost 2,500 people - mainly in the under 30 age-group - have been fined, creating revenue of around $50,000 (£27,500), though so far no one has been jailed...

Authorities claim that the ban has been well received by the region's young people, and that a campaign featuring anti-swearing posters (e.g. "Swearing is not our style"), TV ads and comics, will encourage native speakers to return to the pure Russian of the great classics. However, one young man commented to Russia's Gazeta newspaper that the police were going over the top and that he and his friends constantly had to bite their lips for fear of prosecution.

Even if spoken English allegedly doesn't have such a high swearing content, it would be interesting to see how a similar ban in GB would impact on everyday situations - Friday night in the pub would certainly sound very different!

© Lingo24 Ltd


Translation services - Lingo24 is a leading provider of translation services between all major world languages.
Based in the UK, the company also has full-time operations
in China, Romania and New Zealand.

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