May I have a word about… asterisks, from Dominic Cummings to Brooks Koepka | Jonathan Bouquet

Well, well, well, what a bumper week it has been for asterisks – they’ve been quite wantonly strewn about in the newspapers and online. According to reports, a No 10 text calls Dominic Cummings a “disingenuous little f*cker”. Cummings himself utters a “sh*t”and a “f*ck’” during his select committee appearance (sensational or sour grapes, depending on your taste), while in the normally sedate and well-mannered world of golf, Brooks Koepka, being interviewed on television after the US PGA at Kiawah Island, reacted to a comment from fellow US player Bryson DeChambeau on the best way to play the game with: “I lost my train of thought; hearing that bulls***; f***ing Christ.” (Apparently, these alpha males of the links have a bit of previous.)

The one glaring flaw about asterisks, though, is that they draw your immediate attention, especially in a newspaper, so in attempting to be discreet, you at once highlight the supposedly offensive language. Bit self-defeating.

Never fear. Here at the Observer, we still have a full stock of the little blighters, as our policy is to spell everything out. No shrinking violets, we.

As I’m a bit of a demon for keeping abreast of social media speak, I’m grateful to Helen Rumbelow in the Times therefore for alerting me to a phrase that is beloved of TikTokers – “main character energy”. Generation Zers have used the phrase 5bn times on the site, apparently. Seeking further information, I found the following definition: “Main characters are enigmatic and interesting and maybe troubles befall them but they’re clever and figure out solutions. Main characters are rebellious and one-of-a-kind and badass and cool. Main characters are our heroes and role models.” They sound suspiciously like what we used to call in my day smug little sods.

Jonathan Bouquet is an Observer columnist


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