This paper examines instances of swearing in live television broadcasts. While some cable television shows routinely involve swearing without censorship and recorded shows may include swearing “bleeped out,” our interest is in instances of swearing in contexts where swearing is prohibited. We look at live interviews and panel debates where swearing is clearly noticed and reacted to strongly—and in all cases retracted or apologized for in some way. The examples we examine thus involve a participant visibly moving outside the normative limits of the interaction, and as such reveal the boundaries that serve as organizational structures for the interactions. Drawing on Goffman's work on gaffes and slips and ethnomethodological conversation analysis, the paper explores how swearing is treated by the participants as a practical concern, and how swearing and its management implicates the identities and relationships of the participants and the specific context of the interaction. We discuss how swearing in live broadcasts reveals the limits of authenticity within informal, conversational interviews and debates.
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