Taboo avoidance in the NYT (once again)

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).

Case 1. From January 24th, on this site, about Steve Jobs:

As he zigzagged Cupertino’s streets toward a pizza restaurant, Mr. Jobs complained that a coming article about the Macintosh — a computer that was still two months away from being announced — would not be on the cover of Rolling Stone, but rather stuffed inside a planned issue. Mr. Jobs groused that the magazine was, as Mr. Levy remembers, an expletive, and said a previous cover article about MTV was an expletive, too.

This source specifies that the expurgated  eexpletive was piece of shit.

Case 2. From January 23rd:

[Reed Hastings, chief of Netflix] was asked about a recent comment by Richard Plepler, the chief executive of HBO, that he did not mind if customers of the cable network’s streaming site, HBO Go, shared their passwords. Mr. Hastings joked that Mr. Plepler’s HBO Go password is “Netflix,” followed by an expletive.

What he said was Netflix bitch.

Case 3. From January 21st:

The peak was the masterly headlining set of orchestral hardcore by the Canadian band led by Damian Abraham, also known as Pink Eyes. (The band’s name includes an obscenity.)

The band’s name is Fucked Up. Ben Zimmer has written on Language Log about the NYT‘s treatment of the name.

Case 4. And then on January 27th, in the Metropolitan Diary, a posting from a reader:

It was a busy Monday morning, that kind of day where you’re half-awake and half-asleep, and you feel kind of numb, and every movement feels tingly and annoying, and you’re lucky that you’re able to push your way into the No. 1 train car.

I yawned. I wasn’t fully awake, as an early school schedule does not allow for dawdling and snooze buttons. I noticed steam beginning to form on the window in a circle. The air smelled of coffee and sweat. Suddenly, a woman let out a small shriek, but most in the car were too busy fumbling with their iPhones to notice.

“My dress, my dress, my dress, my dress!” she repeated, grabbing on to the ends of her expensive-looking, body-hugging white dress. A thick, brownish liquid formed an egg-shaped stain, dripping off the end of the cloth. A pool formed there, the liquid encompassing her white high-heeled shoes, staining them likewise. Next to her stood a tall man, unmoving man, holding a tilted cup, empty but still dripping with the last of his beverage.

Then, the woman turned into a tornado of fury and brown stain.

“WHY THE [expletive deleted] WEREN’T YOU CAREFUL WITH YOUR [expletive deleted] COFFEE? THIS IS A [expletive deleted] TRAIN! YOU KNOW TO HOLD IT BETTER THAN THAT! I HAVE A [expletive deleted] INTERVIEW, YOU [expletive deleted] KNOW!” she wails.

As the brakes started to squeal and the train entered 79th Street, the tall man smugly motioned to get off the train.

“It’s tea, not coffee, you know.”

I assume all the expletives involved fuck.

5 Responses to “Taboo avoidance in the NYT (once again)”

  1. Ellen Says:

    Did you get the one I sent you this weekend, where they rephrased “cock-blocking “?

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      No record of it; link?

      • Ellen Says:

        I sent it via Facebook message, I think…

        “College men use two words to describe when a man gets in the way of another man’s business, and it is not ‘bystander intervention.’ For the purposes of a family newspaper, call it ‘shot blocking.'” –

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    Ah, there it is. Facebook messages are often undependable, taking days to appear.

    What’s then intended expression? I’m feeling dense this morning.

  3. Ellen Says:

    As I said above, they were rephrasing “cock-blocking” 🙂

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