No WTF

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.

Back in 2009, Mark Liberman looked at WTF in the posting “Annals of Bowdlerization: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”, noting that it

is apparently on the NYT no-no list, since the archives since 1981 yield only one hit

(The paper also avoids STFU and LMFAO.)

More notes on WTF: from Ben Zimmer on Language Log on 9/24/09; and on this blog on 3/18/11.

One Response to “No WTF”

  1. OMFG! Sweary abbreviations FTFW – Strong Language Says:

    […] make it easier to say whatever TF you want and still not be really swearing – unless you’re the GD (goddamn) NYT. Some may wonder WTF difference it makes – just say WTH (what the hell) if you’re feeling coy […]

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