‘In today’s youth society the F word is used as an adjective to creative emphasis on the phrase/situation/circumstance.’These, apparently, are the words of the 'Senior buyer home & lifestyle' at Urban Outfitters, in response to complaints from a Roman Catholic customer upset by the shop's seasonal merchandise.
Items include wrapping paper, cards and bunting emblazoned with the words 'Happy F***ing Christmas', the ideal accompaniment for their gifts of piggy banks in the form of the Virgin Mary and hip-flasks printed with an image of Jesus and the words 'Holy Water'.
It is, as the article's writer points out, unlikely they would do the same with Ramadan or Hanukkah, but, since I can't abide offence-seeking on behalf of others and the Catholic religion has long been associated with a certain element of kitsch, I'll avoid the religious aspect; what strikes me here is the paucity of imagination implied by the use of language.
The clear intention is to shock, and to enjoy the sense of doing so. The problem with this approach, as Miley Cyrus found recently, is that current aesthetic and moral standards have sunk so low that, in order to be noticed, you have to plumb ever-greater depths of tastelessness in a race to the bottom (or other body part of choice).
It's nothing new, of course; the more egregious antics of Caligula or Heliogabalus - minus the overt sadism and bloodshed - would fit seamlessly into today's TV schedules, along with the exploits of the Hell Fire Clubs or the Bright Young Things.
What is interesting is that such behaviour, until relatively recently, has largely been the preserve of the wealthy and privileged - everyone else has been too preoccupied with the necessity of earning a living to waste time and resources in this way.
Bad language and behaviour have long been associated with the less well-off too, but using it purely to shock someone else was once the preserve of childhood; for it to have the desired impact, there must be someone there to be shocked - someone older, wiser or more morally staid and responsible.
This merchandise is as good an indication as any that today's young people are being fed a cultural diet designed to keep them young and impressionable by a myriad of vested retail interests, as demonstrated by the breathtaking cynicism of the Urban Outfitters' spokeswoman:
‘It has not been used as a direct insult to any person or religion. It has simply been used to capture the minds of our youth market and celebrate the season.'