First, James Naughtie, one of the anchors on BBC Radio 4’s Today
programme, referred to the Con-Dem Secretary of State for Culture as “Mr C***”, instead of his actual name –“Hunt”.
Then, a couple of hours later, Andrew Marr repeated the embarrassing mistake on the same radio channel‘s Start the Week
The first error happened just before the 8-a.m. news bulletin, leading the presenter into a coughing fit and attracting a mountain of emails from the show‘s listeners – some amused by the incident, others angry.
Naughtie later issued several apologies for the unintentional error, which he referred to as simply a “Spoonerism” – an error in speech or deliberate play on words in which corresponding consonants, vowels or morphemes are switched. The term is named after Reverend William Spooner, an Oxford University don, who was said to be notorious at this.
He told listeners
: “Sometimes things happen in live broadcasting that you deeply regret.
“I hope that all those who were offended by what they heard realise it was completely unintentional.”
The Con-Dem Culture Secretary took it in all good humour, posting on Twitter: “They say prepare for anything before going on Today but that took the biscuit. I was laughing as much as u Jim or shld I say Dr Spooner.”
However, during the programme that follows Today
, Naughtie’s BBC colleague, Marr, compounded the situation, though again unintentionally.
During Start the Week
, Marr and his guests were talking about Freudian slips. Marr then used Naughtie’s earlier faux pas as an example. Promising listeners that he would not repeat his colleague’s mistake, Marr went on to do just that! He said
We’re not going to repeat in quite the terms it happened . . . Jeremy C*** . . . Hunt, the Culture Secretary, had his name, Freudianly transposed .
I should really apologise for saying it again, but it’s very hard to talk about it without saying it.
According to the Independent
, “News of the mistakes spread like wildfire online, with many people posting recordings - although the ‘listen again’ facility on the BBC website appeared to be experiencing delays.”
And the paper quoted a spokesperson for the BBC in the following statement:
James and Andrew regret what happened and have both apologised for their verbal tangles on air.
These instances involved a slip of the tongue during a live broadcast, and we apologise for any offence caused.
Bloggers and comedians have been quick to comment. For example, David Schneider joked on Twitter: “Bloody hell. Andrew Marr just done a C-word now. It’s contagious. Radio Fourettes.”
Meanwhile, a large number of people – in a show of anger at what the Con-Dem government is doing in terms of cuts to public services and the trebling of student tuition fees
– have posted messages on various websites, basically saying that they think all Conservative/Liberal Democrat government ministers are what Hunt was inadvertently called.