Archive for the ‘Taboo language and slurs’ Category

On the euphemism watch

April 2, 2014

From Benjamin Tolbert on ADS-L:

My University now has a “budget realignment task force”.

I think this = “people who decide who and what is cut.”

That list has had previous discussions about euphemisms for firing or discontinuing employees (“letting them go”), of which there are no end, all designed to avoid the nasty truth through administrative jargon. This is a particularly impressive example, a four-word compound noun (in seven syllables). Awkward and clunky.

There might be even worse examples out there. Much more embarrassing than sex.


Profanity in the NYT

April 1, 2014

Yesterday’s NYT had an op-ed piece by Jesse Sheidlower on “The Case for Profanity in Print”, taking up a topic that I’ve posted about frequently (often mockingly, often with input from Jesse): the paper’s insistence (almost without exception) on alluding to taboo vocabulary without quoting it, even when it’s the point of the story. (It’s a family paper, they say, and the children must be protected. If so, then they should simply avoid allusions to the language at all, rather than contort themselves to communicate what was said without actually using the words. And, by the way, children are not innocents about such things.)


Keeping secrets

March 24, 2014

While we slog through grading for Winter Quarter, two cartoons today: a Zits and and a Pearls about keeping secrets, or at least trying to.


My Hobby Comics

March 24, 2014

Some bounty from the Stanford Linguistics in the Comics freshman seminar, a collection of xkcd cartoons with subheaded metatext “My Hobby”, searched out by Kyle Qian. Kyle found about 1,300 xkcd cartoons online, 36 of them subheaded this way, and he posted 7 of them with discussion. (I’ll put off posting about his comments until he gives me permission. The cartoons are in some sense public, but Kyle’s analysis is certainly not.)


Swear words

March 21, 2014

A text (with image) on Facebook recently, posted by 99.5 WZPL Indianapolis, but goodness knows who was the original source:



Three for Thursday

March 13, 2014

Three cartoons this morning: a notably weird Zippy about comics, a Dilbert on search terms, and a Zits on passwords (and obscenicons):


Three cartoons for Saturday

March 8, 2014

Maybe I’m just easily amused today, but three cartoons caught my eye: a Zippy, a Rhymes With Orange, and a Pearls Before Swine:






February 15, 2014

(The title provides a warning for the sensitive.)

On the 11th on Facebook, Greg Parkinson commented on steroid-induced gynecomastia, with this image:


Tom Kirkland followed up with:

What surprises me is … how large the fan base for bitchtits [is].

(introducing the slang bitchtits for gynecomastia; bitchtits would be doubly unsuitable for the New York Times, which treats both parts of the compound as taboo, unacceptable in print; also note the syntax).


Taboo avoidance in the NYT (once again)

February 9, 2014

Another in a series of periodic reports on taboo avoidance in the New York Times: three examples of an expletive / obscenity (from Ben Zimmer), plus one case where the paper breaks down and prints [expletive deleted], despite its stated policy not to do so (in this case, it’s hard to see how to avoid it).


Whale oil

January 29, 2014

Passed on by Larry Selinker on Facebook, this t-shirt purporting to be in “Irish” — well, Irish English:

Well I’ll be fucked.



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