Sunday Song Lyric:
The Pogues' song "Fairytale of New York" is a very popular Christmas song across the pond. In 2004 it won a poll as the best Christmas song of all time. This year the song is the source of controversy, however, as the BBC is editing the lyrics when playing it on the air.
BBC's Radio 1 edited the word "faggot" out of the Pogue's Christmas standard "Fairytale of New York", stating that the decision was made because "this is a word that members of our audience would find offensive". This, despite the fact that the song has played in an unedited version for the last 20 years. The song has topped several Best Christmas Song polls in Britain, and it regularly hit the number one spot every Christmas. (Yes, a song with that word in it is a Christmas favorite. England -- it's a different planet.)

In the song, the late singer Kirsty MacColl takes on the voice of a character who
sings, "You scumbag, you maggot/You cheap lousy faggot" in an argument with another character in the song sung by Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan. Jean MacColl, the late singer's mother, called the ban "ridiculous", saying, "These are a couple of characters . . . Today we have a lot of a gratuitous vulgarity and ... whatever from people all over which I think is quite unnecessary. These are characters and they speak like that."
The offending verse reads as follows:
You're a bum
You're a punk
You're an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God it's our last.
As noted above, this part of the song is an exchange between two characters in the song. The full lyrics are on the Pogues website here. Here is the video and here is a live performance of the song.

UPDATE: Apparently the BBC backed down.

The Beeb has backed down.
12.23.2007 8:04am
Verry anonymous (mail):
Speaking of being correct, Mr. Adler obviously have not heard about another planet called Poland, where calling pope an old man gets you 2 years jail sentence. Good news: suspended!

More news that dont' fit to print (and it is REAL!)

On the payroll of our allied army in Iraq

Liberators of Iraq

UN twist (never seen it in the NYT?)

Since we all know gays are BAD people, my "legal" advice to BBC would be to play down the word, and claim that in Europe fagot is mostly used to call an instrument otherwise known as basoon:

google search

If that does not help, I recommend visit to ER.
12.23.2007 8:16am
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Yeah, and in the UK a 'faggot' is also something akin to a meatball.

The song is terrific, if a bit of a slander on NYC, and definitely not in the 'Little Drummer Boy' category of carols.
12.23.2007 9:46am
Dan Simon (mail) (www):
Funny, isn't it, which violations of Christmas traditions cause the most public outrage...
12.23.2007 11:01am
Well, that says it all about the culture of the West in Europe. Something is rotten. Sad. Anyone who sees that as a Christmas song is ill and I want nothing to do with them. If that is art then something is very,very wrong in the heart of mankind. Oh Holy Night and Joy to the World indeed is dead as is western culture for some.
12.23.2007 11:13am
Kris (mail) (www):
Methinks someone needs to lighten up.
12.23.2007 11:22am
JosephSlater (mail):
Kirsty MacColl, RIP. A great talent who died (in a boating accident) far too young. Kirsty also did an album with my favorite album title of all time: "Electric Landlady."
12.23.2007 11:32am
John Burgess (mail) (www):
therut: The song is a Christmas song, but it's not the typical 'Christmas on 42nd St.' or 'It's a Wonderful Life' Christmas. (I personally despise the latter for reasons not germane here.) It's a story about a couple of down-and-outers, one of whom is dying from his drug addiction on Christmas. Bad things don't stop happening just because others might celebrating something else.

If you want to criticize the British public for finding this among their favorite Christmas songs, you might have a stronger argument. But is their choice a matter of cynicism about the season or empathy for those who miss it?
12.23.2007 11:46am
Thales (mail) (www):
Outstanding choice: I also highly recommend the Pogues' finest album, Rum, Sodomy &the Lash. No collaborations with MacColl, but it's a fine collection of profane and heartfelt songs (sometimes the same song is both, as in Fairytale). Highlights include the outstanding cover of The Band Played Waltzing Matilda, and if you get the CD reissue, Body of an American.
12.23.2007 11:56am
Jmaie (mail):
I never heard a faggot as a meatball, I always thought it was a bundle of sticks.

I don't want to wander too much from the thread, but...

In West Hollywood, CA there is a restaurant called "Barney's Beanery." The place is a Hollywood icon, been around since the 1920's.

West Hollywood incorporated in the early eighties IIRC. The area has a large gay population and one of the city council's first actions was to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance.

As a result, Barney's was forced to stop printing "No Faggots Allowed" on their matchbooks. There was a similar sign that had to be taken down as well.

Barney's originally fought the issue on the grounds that they were talking about bundles of sticks.
12.23.2007 12:26pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Faggots are bundles of sticks (thus the fagot link with bassoons).

It's also linked to meatballs because the English item by the name is rather long, something like a kabob or kofta, rather than spherical.

'Faggots &Mash' is almost as common as 'Bangers &Mash'.
12.23.2007 2:39pm
Freddy Hill:
Hadn't heard that before. It strangely reminds me of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

Originally, the words went: "Have yourself a merry little Christmas / It may be your last..." Not a happy song but evocative of a certain Christmas mood.
12.23.2007 9:32pm
Richard A. (mail):

Here's an excellent summation of the Pogues by critic Peter Paphides that I happened on in the London Times in 2005. His subject was Michael Flatley of "Riverdance" but he got to the Pogues:

"Cheesy it may be, but if it wasn't for the distortions of Irish emigres and their children, Irish popular culture would be in a much poorer place. Though he may not be flattered by the comparison, there's something of the Flatley spirit about Shane MacGowan -the man once described by Bono as "Ireland's greatest living songwriter".
However quintessentially Irish the Pogues canon may seem to us now, the group's debut appearance on Irish radio prompted fevered debate. Waiting for MacGowan in the studio was the former Planxty concertina player Noel Hill, who called the band a "terrible abortion". Ireland, of course, eventually cottoned on to the magnitude of MacGowan's talents -but not before alcohol had all but dampened them. Hence the 1997 BBC documentary in which the barely coherent singer breaks into song in a Dublin bar and the entire place falls rapt in deference to his atonal bellowing. A delayed reaction if ever there was one."
12.23.2007 10:21pm
I thought "faggot" was a slang term for a cigarette. When we were all at a conference at the London office years back my boss would announce before he was taking a smoking break, "Well, I'm off to incinerate a homosexual. If anybody needs me I'll be back in about 10 minutes."
12.23.2007 11:10pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
cathyf: No, cigarettes are just 'fags'. It surely derives from 'faggot', a bundle of sticks, but I haven't heard 'faggot' used for cigarettes in the UK. Perhaps in early 20th C. literature, but not on the streets.
12.24.2007 12:10am
John Burgess (mail) (www):
BTW, according to World Wide Words' entry on 'Faggot', the word originally applied (in it's non-bundle-of-sticks sense) to a termagant, a 'shrewish, bad-tempered woman'. It didn't enter UK slang to mean a Gay until the 1960s.
12.24.2007 12:15am