There's been a lot of talk lately, mainly by comics, about the right to be offended. Think about that, it's important: The right to be offended.
What it means is that even though you think swinging cats by their tails is so 'hil-freakin-arious!' you're sure to be shortlisted for the Academy Awards presenter's job once Billy Crystal's face has gone into spasm and he's been rushed to hospital whispering in his own ears, I don't have to.
In fact, I can be genuinely offended by your actions to the point where I want to gaffer tape your still-empty ball bag to an anvil and make you drag it around until it's long enough to be tucked in your sock and you develop the first recorded case of 'athlete's scrotum.'
Pretty obvious premise, right? But what if it's not so straight forward? Swinging cats may be the most evil way to assess how big a room is but it's illegal, so the offence in question is taken by society as a whole. The right to be offended is an individual thing, so it's an area greyer than Manchester.
I love swearing - one of my favourite words is bastard.
I got a lump of plaster in my eye the other week. A big, wet dollop of the stuff worked its way under my lid and round the back of my eyeball. It was so painful I even tried scraping it out with a metal dental hook, you can imagine the kind of mood it put me in. Start at angry, then work out roughly where happy is and get a long haul flight in the opposite direction.
The next day, as I picked the crust off my eyeball and squeezed some more of the anti-bacterial glue the hospital had dispensed to me under my swollen lid, I suddenly thought of my neighbours. The lovely, retired, gentle couple next door and wondered how much of 'Hurricane Ian' had rattled their porch.
I ventured round there with a bottle of wine, like a kitten with a hangover.
"Oh, hello dear," Barbara opened the door with a smile, "are you alright now?"
It was obvious she'd heard everything. I smiled apologetically and pointed to my eye as her husband, Derek, came to her side.
"Oh it was your eye then was it?" He said, as Barbara turned to him with a concerned nod. "Sounded like you were getting fucked up the arse with a porcupine!"
I've never been so happy to hear filth from a pensioner before. But it was pure luck.
They could have been god-fearing puritans who sleep in separate rooms and fart in jars and flagellate themselves for washing their own genitals.
In the house of Lords the other day Baroness Trumpington flicked the Vs at Lord King.
She's 89 and, therefore, about as arrestable as Jack the Ripper. It should also be said that if your name's Baroness Trumpington you're bound to feel comically obliged to flick the Vs, pick your nose and hand out whoopee cushions on a daily basis. Even so, she was advised to issue a humble apology along the lines of, "I nodded off and dreamt I was smoking a cigar."
Who complained? What was the problem, really? Why does an 89 year old woman have to apologise for doing something that's not only utterly inoffensive but quintessentially British?
It gets worse. Len Goodman has had over 600 complaints because he said "sod". That's right- there are 600 people with phones in this country that are so offended by the word sod that they feel the need to use them in anger.
Len Goodman judges ballroom dancing on the BBC! It doesn't get more cultured than that and yet it was described as "appalling", "over the line" and "unsuitable for family viewing" by people whose right to be offended gets so much exercise it could teach Zumba classes- although Zumba is probably a rude word to them too.
This isn't the Sex Pistols getting childish kicks from swearing on TV and it's not racist, sexist, Marxist...or any kind of 'cist' that needs 600 'harrumphers' lining up ready to lance it with their pins of righteousness.
Here's my point. Everyone has the right to be offended, but that doesn't mean that what offends them is actually offensive. Moreover, everyone has the right to offend, from Ricky Gervais to Frankie Boyle and even Len Goodman and Baroness Trumpington [Shame it's not Trumpton...Pooh, Pooh, Barmy McSpew, C**tbag, Dribble and Grope anyone?] But unless what they do becomes illegal, like hurting helpless animals, then they should be allowed to carry on without the fear that a call from, 'Outraged of Ottershott' could end their careers.
"Thank you for calling the BBC complaints department. If something genuinely offensive has happened please press one. For all other complaints please hold until a member of staff can tell you to fuck off in person."
Follow Ian Watson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/elywhitley