"What would you say to a cup of tea?"

By Marianne Cronin.

Mrs Doyle (the housekeeper) offers Father Jack (an elderly priest) a cup of tea:

Mrs Doyle: And what would you say to a cup?
Father Jack: Feck off, cup! (Audience laughs for 5.2 seconds)

Marianne Cronin

Marianne Cronin

“My photograph depicts the impolite term ‘feck’ as the focus of investigation and the ornate frame represents the cultural significance afforded to the word, with its fixed association with humour, impoliteness and the popular sitcom Father Ted.”

 You might already be familiar with the Irish swear word ‘feck’. The word first gained public attention when it was used in British-Irish sitcom Father Ted. Elderly priest Father Jack was known for sitting in his filthy armchair and shouting it at his fellow priests. But why does the audience laugh when Father Jack is impolite to Mrs Doyle? And why are so many sitcoms full of impoliteness?

Using scripts from Channel 4 sitcoms Father Ted, Black Books and The IT Crowd, my research aims to do three things: 1) to show that impoliteness is common in sitcoms, 2) to prove that there is a relationship between impoliteness and audience laughter and 3) to explore the types of impoliteness that are used to make us laugh.

Marianne Cronin is a postgraduate researcher in English Language and Applied Linguistics.

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