Archive for the ‘Taboo language and slurs’ Category


April 15, 2015

In Kevin Young’s April 12th NYT review of The Sellout by Paul Beatty, a comic novel on black life on the outskirts of Los Angeles:

There are more mentions of the N-word than on a Sigma Alpha Epsilon field trip. But like early Richard Pryor, Beatty seems to wish to take the word out of the shadows

The reclaiming of nigger is certainly of note, but this posting is about the allusion, to a Sigma Alpha Epsilon field trip. Either you get it or you don’t; it’s not something you can figure out.


The power of foul language

April 10, 2015

Today’s Dilbert:

Alice’s swearing seems to have fried the boss’s brain: the power of words.


April 10, 2015

Ellen Seebacher writes to note this piece of extremely ostentatious taboo avoidance in the NYT Style section on the 2nd, in Guy Trebay’s piece “Dear Winter Coat: Goodbye and Good Riddance”:

At issue … is the question of when that hopeful day [the first day of spring weather] will arrive. It snowed on the first day of spring on the East Coast and remained so cold for the week thereafter that Olive & Bette’s boutique on Madison Avenue posted a placard outside with a popular and unprintable three-letter Internet acronym. “After Tuesday even the calendar goes,” what the heck, or initials to that effect.

Ellen was astonished that the paper treats WTF as an unprintable obscenity: the initialism inherits the taboo status of the word the F stands for. It turns out the Language Log has been down this road.



April 3, 2015

Forwarded to me by Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky, this posting on tumblr, with:

She: What’s the boy word for slut?

He: hey still haven’t come up with one yet. But I’m sure they’re working on it.

The issue has often been taken up by feminist critics.


Sidestepping the taboo item

April 2, 2015

Two instances of taboo avoidance today: one from today’s Dilbert, one from a tv ad for DraftKings (a fantasy sports site).

The DraftKings ad (with “you could win a shipload of money”) can be viewed here.


Knob in a red top

March 18, 2015

On Facebook yesterday, Chris Waigl posted the beginning of this story from the (UK) Independent, dated today:

James May calls Jeremy Clarkson a ‘k**b’ after Top Gear star suspended by BBC

Top Gear presenter James May has defended his co-presenter Jeremy Clarkson following his suspension, by calling his colleague “a k**b” but saying he “quite likes him.”



January 24, 2015

Passed on to me, this 2007 Phil Selby cartoon:


A take-off on door-to-door evangelizing, by (in particular) Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, using the pun Jesuscheeses to move things to the world of mice, who are famously fond of cheese.


Taboo time in Paris

January 15, 2015

On the 13th in the NYT, a piece by Rachel Donaldo on the news from Paris: on-line, “Charlie Hebdo’s New Issue Features Muhammad on Cover”, in the print edition, “Still Mourning, but Printing a New Provocation: Muhammad on the Cover”, with a section on Gérard Biard, one of the satirical paper’s top editors:

As the newsroom sprang to life on Friday afternoon, Mr. Biard reflected. “They killed people who drew cartoon characters. That’s it. That’s all these guys do. If they’re afraid of that,” what’s their god?, he asked, inserting an expletive for emphasis.

Presumably the interview was in French, translated here for an American readership, so the inserted expletive would have been foutu and not fucking.

I tried to check how this was reported in the French press, and couldn’t find anything with a reference to the attackers’ god, with or without an expletive (though I did listen to a pretty long interview with Briard). But maybe I just missed it.

My puzzle about the NYT version is not the suppressed expletive — that’s just Timesian modesty, often commented on in this blog — but why the paper chose to mention the expletive at all, when it doesn’t seem to me to add anything to the story. So the paper ended up calling attention to the expletive they chose not to print.

Annals of euphemism

December 20, 2014

A Clive Goddard cartoon from the January 2015 Funny Times:

On the left, a woman shopping for products to use during menstruation, euphemistically called sanitary products. On the right, an unsavory guy shopping for god-knows-what — but whatever it is, it’s unsanitary ‘unclean’.


Kicked in the mascot

December 12, 2014

Today’s Mother Goose & Grimm:

The Mascots — Ronald McDonald, Colonel Sanders, Tony the Tiger, Yellow the M&M, and Cap’n Crunch — view their fallen teammate, Mr. Peanut, with dismay.



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