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You can't say that!
October 21, 2008 6:27 AM   Subscribe

The U.S. Constitution protects your right to bear arms. And it supposedly protects your right to mock nearly-bare bears. Speech is definitely subject to supply and demand. So why does the FCC feel the need to regulate swearing on the airwaves? Steven Pinker complains. [via ALDaily]
posted by Inspector.Gadget (82 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yes, you can use fuck as a tag.
posted by Skorgu at 6:37 AM on October 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm always a little irritated when podcasts I listen too beep themselves. It just propagates the belief that there's something wrong with someone saying shit or fuck sometimes. Sure, kids might be listening, but they found your podcast on the internet, where there is plenty of actual shit and fucking for them to find if they have the interest in it.
posted by garlic at 6:48 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


A fracking good post.
posted by Midnight Rambler at 6:53 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, Microsoft is on the case.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:53 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Fuck you very much, FCC.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 6:58 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Meh, I'm gonna go watch the Penis Van Lesbian show.

Am I doing it right?
posted by C17H19NO3 at 7:01 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


On the one hand, okay, yes, I use expletives. Sometimes, the word "fuck" really is the most apt word for a situation (for example, when you've just dropped a heavy fencing rapier directly onto your toe, point-first -- and I know of which I speak).

On the other hand, though -- sometimes it isn't. Using expletives overly much is kind of lazy, I think. Granted, most cases of censored speech aren't overly-laden, but I do think trying to keep things generally clean does keep us all from making it a habit.

Besides, one of the reasons why the words are so powerful is because we don't use them too much -- which is why, when I was a stage manager, I often avoided using the f-bomb until I had to make some kind of serious announcement to the cast -- say, when I had to make my little "here's how to use a prop gun safely" lecture. When I got to the warning that "I do not want to see anyone fucking around with this gun at any time", it was also usually the first time anyone heard me use the f-bomb, and thus it carried double weight because "wow, she means it".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:01 AM on October 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


Lame, very lame. How about this, Mr. Smartypants: because it's rude to curse, not to mention thoughtless? "Fuck" is what you say when you aren't smart enough to think of anything to say. As a member of the public, I say stupidity should not be encouraged on the public airwaves. (SP really isn't a member of my public, as he lives in Pinheadland, where anything goes so long as you have tenure.)
posted by MarshallPoe at 7:09 AM on October 21, 2008


Because the FCC is accountable to fools and prudes. What's far worse is the voluntary self-censorship engaged in by purportedly serious media outlets. It makes me livid whenever I read in the New York Times that so-and-so used a profane adjective or a vulgar term or a racial epithet (or, worse, when they start making shit up to spare our delicate sensibilities — e.g. claiming that PUMA stands for Party Unity Means Authority) and I have to look on fucking Romenesko to see what the fuck the guy said. It reflects such brazen contempt for the reader. Take your fucking condescending paternalism and shove it up your fucking ass, NYT.
posted by enn at 7:13 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


The regulation is legitimate given the public trust of the airwaves and a strong desire from many parents to shield their children from vulgarities. However, it seems a bit outdated now that every TV comes with a V-chip that parents can use to limit what their children watch.
posted by caddis at 7:14 AM on October 21, 2008


To paraphrase Lenny Bruce, "Profanity is the last refuge of the inarticulate motherfucker."

As a member of the public, I say stupidity should not be encouraged on the public airwaves.

Can we start with the karaoke contests and the maggot-eating shows?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:23 AM on October 21, 2008 [4 favorites]


I would rather have the FCC protect me by helping stop the phone companies and government from spying on me, rather than protecting me by stopping television broadcasters from sending me free TV with profane words in it.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:25 AM on October 21, 2008 [8 favorites]


"Fuck" is what you say when you aren't smart enough to think of anything to say.

You must be hanging with one boorish crowd if they can't manage to get a sentiment in between the fucks. The guys I know somehow figured out how to curse and make intelligent conversation.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:35 AM on October 21, 2008 [4 favorites]


Profanity, when used properly by me at Thanksgiving dinner, is hilarious.

Profanity, when used properly by angry people to express themselves, is appropriate.

Profanity, when used to emphasize a point like a verbal underline as EmpressCallipygos describes, is a tool.

Profanity, when used by realistic characters in a realistic way, is necessary. I would rather have realistic characters behaving realistically in tv shows than doing a weird dance around language. If a necessary component of drama is suspension of disbelief, and then I see some hardboiled military dude or tough cop lady grab somebody, throw them up against the wall, and yell "You better freakin' tell me where the freakin' goods are, you piece of crap," well, then, uh, suspense lost.

And, when the phrase "profanity is a crutch for the weak-minded" phrase is paraded through town like the body of Mussolini through Italy, I counter with this: repetition of slogans is a bigger crutch for the weak-minded.
posted by burnfirewalls at 7:35 AM on October 21, 2008 [17 favorites]


Hey, marshallpoe: fuck you.
posted by notsnot at 7:36 AM on October 21, 2008 [4 favorites]


doh! Only one "phrase" there...to be fair, there wasn't a single line of profanity in my reponse and I still fucked up.
posted by burnfirewalls at 7:37 AM on October 21, 2008


“but I do think trying to keep things generally clean does keep us all from making it a habit.”

I completely agree with this and all other iterations of this argument. I’ve got kids m’self.

That said: “It’s not clear why swearing on the airwaves should be the government’s business.”

I completely agree with this and all other iterations of this argument. I’ve got a lot of shit to say m’self.

No one told me to have kids. No one tells me how to raise them. I can teach them to curse like drunken sailors or I can get off my ass and shut off the t.v. or radio.

I disagree with this ‘marketplace’ nonsense. There should be standardized channels. Kid and/or family-friendly perhaps, on which profanity is not allowed. Not sure how to execute that. Maybe some incentives or something. A break on licensing. Whatever.

But while I’m practically a fanatic when it comes to free speech, I recognize the corrosive effect lazy rhetoric (not just profanity) has.

So I also support the old mandate of broadcasters having to have news, etc. and regulating that (the pre-Reagan changes).

I turned on t.v. today while showering, just to have some distraction, and it was basically an infomercial on how to clean up your credit score. They even named specific companies.
Oddly enough, they had an actual commercial for - yep - companies that do that.

Profanity is a red herring here. I’d rather hear my kid tell our grocery check out person to go fuck themselves than buy into any of this kind of lowbrain thinking that’s on t.v.

In fact, I’d argue in some cases if someone’s not using profanity as connected with certain current topics their depth of critical thought is questionable.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:45 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Coincidentally, bleeping Microsoft just got a bleeping patent for a bleeping method for real-time automatic bleeping censorship of an bleeping audiostream.
posted by Skeptic at 7:49 AM on October 21, 2008


Lame, very lame. How about this, Mr. Smartypants: because it's rude to curse, not to mention thoughtless? "Fuck" is what you say when you aren't smart enough to think of anything to say.

I've heard this sentiment once before, from a teacher who was a total bitch after she overheard someone swear in the hallway.

But anyway, it makes no sense at all. Some people (including yourself) have apparently decided to take hearing the F-word as some kind of sign of unintelligent. But that doesn't actually mean that people who actually use that word really are unintelligent. It's all in your head.

Now, your belief that you can make accurate judgments about people based on superficial properties, with no real evidence, that you can somehow divine people's motivation based on some kind of literary analysis of their speech belies a severe mental defect, and in fact points you out as the stupid one.
posted by delmoi at 7:51 AM on October 21, 2008 [4 favorites]


I've heard this sentiment once before, from a teacher who was a total bitch after she overheard someone swear in the hallway.

Er, just to clarify, she was a total bitch most of the time. She just made a comment one day in class about the supposed unintelligence of the passerby.
posted by delmoi at 7:53 AM on October 21, 2008


Inspector.Gadget wrote:
So why does the FCC feel the need to regulate swearing on the airwaves?

One for Ask Fucking Metafilter?
posted by internationalfeel at 7:58 AM on October 21, 2008


Since we *should* be thinking of the children, how about parents who hit their children for swearing?

What the shit, man?
posted by burnfirewalls at 8:00 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


South Park is funnier with all the swear words bleeped out. I'm just sayin.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:00 AM on October 21, 2008


see also
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:02 AM on October 21, 2008


Can I use this as an opportunity to link to this? Because I have always really, really liked it.
posted by uncleozzy at 8:03 AM on October 21, 2008 [5 favorites]


Guns don't kill people, rappers do!
posted by Artw at 8:03 AM on October 21, 2008


"Fuck" is what you say when you aren't smart enough to think of anything to say.

Fuck that.
posted by Artw at 8:04 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


I disagree with this ‘marketplace’ nonsense. There should be standardized channels. Kid and/or family-friendly perhaps, on which profanity is not allowed. Not sure how to execute that. Maybe some incentives or something. A break on licensing. Whatever.

But there IS a market for this - I am not a parent but I know plenty who would want such a channel. I don't think this needs to be regulated by the government, because at the first swear word, the parents (i.e. the market) would cause an uproar.
posted by desjardins at 8:08 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Underpants Bear suffers from lack of context.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:08 AM on October 21, 2008


"Fuck" is what you say when you aren't smart enough to think of anything to say.

I guess you weren't smart enough to censor yourself, you stupid f***head! How RUDE! Hrmph!!
posted by mrzer0 at 8:20 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


TASTY HUMANS GOD WILL EAT YOU
posted by Artw at 8:23 AM on October 21, 2008


Why not have a cutoff time? After 10 PM, relax the rules. Kids are supposed to be in the bed at that point. It's the civilised solution.
posted by chuckdarwin at 8:25 AM on October 21, 2008


My kids learned absolutely none of their knowledge of profanity from radio, T.V. or the internet.

They learned it from me.

Thankfully their mother is something of a prude when it comes to swearing, so they follow in her footsteps and do not rant like drunken, on-leave sailors... (though, to be fair, I've never heard a drunken sailor swear)
posted by jkaczor at 8:41 AM on October 21, 2008


Other countries do that sort of thing, so it's clearly socialism.
posted by Artw at 8:41 AM on October 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


"Fuck" is what you say when you aren't smart enough to think of anything to say.


Okay, try to match the expressiveness of this:

Fuck! The fucking fucker is fucking fucked! Fuck!

Look at the translation:

Oh dear, the machine gun has jammed. We're in trouble now!

It just doesn't transmit the same kind of urgency of the situation...
posted by DreamerFi at 8:41 AM on October 21, 2008


Delmoi wrote: "Some people (including yourself) have apparently decided to take hearing the F-word as some kind of sign of unintelligent."

Guilty as charged, and proud of it.
posted by MarshallPoe at 8:42 AM on October 21, 2008


It must be fun going to the bookstore and refusing to browse outside of the children's section.
posted by punishinglemur at 8:49 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


I guess I can stop feeling uncharitable for thinking that MarshallPoe was a moron, since he went and gave us the go-ahead.
posted by Skot at 8:59 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


MarshallPoe: I know exactly how you feel, except I cringe when people use cutesy words or euphemisms when a good old fashion profane word would suffice.
posted by MrMulan at 9:02 AM on October 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


On censorship: many radio stations and media outlets follow the "7 words you can't say" or something similar. At the college radio station in my town, the words are fuck, shit, cunt, cocksucker, or goddamn anyone (you can say goddamn it, but no asking God to damn anyone in particular).

But when looking for where those words come from, they're just the words that are most likely to upset someone. This handful of words is only what most would consider offensive. With radio, there isn't the amount of oversight there is with TV, due to the sheer number of local stations. Some stations have warnings that "the following program may be offensive to sensitive people" or something of the sort. You can still get offended, but you've been warned. I'm not sure if that holds up in court, or if it's been tested.

In the end, the offensive words are only offensive when someone gets offended. If you're listening to punk rock, you wouldn't be surprised to hear swearing. Radio folks get worried about "the little old lady with a tape recorder," listening for offensive material. You can say some very boring words in a very distasteful way and offend plenty of people. But "fuck" will always catch someone's ear.

Additional anecdote: I have a friend who is usually pretty well-spoken, but would pull a lot of all-nighters in college. After being up 20 hours or more, he'd start swearing, when he normally wouldn't. He knew it, but he was less controlled (or censored?) if he didn't get a normal amount of sleep.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:08 AM on October 21, 2008


Skeptic : Coincidentally, bleeping Microsoft just got a bleeping patent for a bleeping method for real-time automatic bleeping censorship of an bleeping audiostream.

Did you enjoy your shitaki mushroom, Mr. Fukawa? Excellent. Are you still planing on going to the bird sanctuary today? I hear they have a new display of boobies and great tits, as well as some chickens. I just love those cocks and hens. Also, I hear that they have set up a petting zoo outside with an ass, a bitch, and a couple of pussy cats. If you have any problems finding the place, just give us a call and ask for the manager, his name is Dick Kunt.
posted by quin at 9:21 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Scunthorpe.
posted by Artw at 9:24 AM on October 21, 2008


Why not have a cutoff time? After 10 PM, relax the rules. Kids are supposed to be in the bed at that point. It's the civilised solution.

In fact, this is already the case. The FCC indecency rules are only in effect between 6am and 10pm. After that, you can swear your ass off.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 9:59 AM on October 21, 2008


Listen, I'm as much against censorship as the next guy, but there's not something wrong with not swearing. I find it hard to swear myself (which is odd, since I grew up in a house where it was used decently) and have to force myself to say one when it's dramatically appropriate or when quoting something. I don't like to swear; I find that it degrads the conversation. And yes, the retort to this of course is "Fuck that". I just find it slightly obscene in the sense it should take place off screen usually. I guess you guys can do what you want, but I don't prefer words that are in many ways designed to upset people. Often times they're the "Oh, you don't like it! Well, why the fuck should I care what you like or don't like?" We, of course, should care about what language we use in front of other people as it's only polite and courteous. This obviously doesn't make it illegal though.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 10:01 AM on October 21, 2008


South Park is funnier with all the swear words bleeped out. I'm just sayin.

So is Arrested Development, even moreso since they took great pains to avoid even showing the characters mouth the words. And then there was Buster's use of initials to denote certain words he didn't like saying. It's funny when done right.

When I got to the warning that "I do not want to see anyone fucking around with this gun at any time", it was also usually the first time anyone heard me use the f-bomb, and thus it carried double weight because "wow, she means it".

My grandfather passed this lesson along to me, which he learned while he served in the Navy during WWII. He said that most of the guys on the ship swore like, well, sailors, so much so that the cuss words lost their meaning and became nothing but meaningless punctuation that everybody learned to tune out.

One officer, however, made it a point not to swear, and as a result the crew heard him more. Not just listened to, but heard. However, the time he did drop an F-bomb, it was for a Very Important Reason and wow, said Grandpa, did it make everybody stop and listen.

Profanity is used to make an impact. Use it too much and you dilute that impact. Save it for when you truly need it and pow, that impact is felt. As a rhetorical device it's not the best, but it's certainly handy and effective when used correctly.

But as effective as it may be, Grandpa said it'd be best if we not use certain words around Grandma.
posted by Spatch at 10:07 AM on October 21, 2008


Also, it's worth noting that historically the pressure for regulating content (particularly of a sexual nature) on the airwaves has tended to come from a relatively small minority of very vocal complainers.

For example, in 1937 Mae West'e appearance on this skit (Real Player) on the Chase and Sanborn hour aroused so much furor from moral reformers that it got her banned from network radio for 12 years. However, a telephone survey taken after the controversy found that an overwhelming majority (59%) of people who heard the program actually approved of it, and a whopping 60% of respondents said they wanted to hear *more* sexually suggestive programming on radio*. And this was 70 years ago!!

Americans have a history of letting a small number of people dictate what we "should" be able to hear/see over our publicly owned airwaves. Interestingly, nowhere do the FCC rules address content that is excessively violent in nature. Apparently, we're all ok with that.

*source (ch. 7)
posted by DiscourseMarker at 10:19 AM on October 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


My American then-girlfriend-now-wife was dead impressed when she saw full frontal nudity on British TV, and not a HBO type chanel or anything.
posted by Artw at 10:22 AM on October 21, 2008


Everybody should listen to Holy Fuck if only because DJs won't say their name on the air. And Stephen Harper used them as an example of why he wanted to cut government arts funding.
posted by GuyZero at 10:22 AM on October 21, 2008


I disagree with this ‘marketplace’ nonsense. There should be standardized channels. Kid and/or family-friendly perhaps, on which profanity is not allowed. Not sure how to execute that.

We do this already. We call the "kid friendly" channels "over-the-air television before 10 pm" and the other ones "the good channels."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:33 AM on October 21, 2008


A fracking good post.

I do believe that fucking, as in a fuckin' good post, is permitted by the FCC, when it is deemed not to refer to any mating body parts or prurient actions. This was adjudicated fairly recently, if I'm not mistaken. Although it will probably trigger complaints and result in unwanted scrutiny.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:35 AM on October 21, 2008


In the Canadian Forces, Master Corporals seem to have a knack of making you feel like a total piece of shite on toast without using a single swear word. They probably make really good babysitters.
posted by illiad at 10:39 AM on October 21, 2008


As a parent, I don't need the government to do my censoring for me. There are always going to be channels like Nick, Disney etc., that will build their branding and reputation around self-censorship because there's a market out there for it. If they really want to help us out, they should start fining networks for producing vapid reality shows or sitcoms built around precocious kids that say the darndest things.
posted by mattholomew at 10:41 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Skot wrote: "I guess I can stop feeling uncharitable for thinking that MarshallPoe was a moron, since he went and gave us the go-ahead."

Calling someone a moron is, a bit like saying "fuck," what you do when you don't know what to do. I used to do a lot of both in 3rd grade, but I'm past that now. Carry on.
posted by MarshallPoe at 10:41 AM on October 21, 2008


I'll side with Marshallpoe on this one. I was raised in a household where swearing simply didn't happen other than once every ten years sort of thing. I was taught that swearing isn't needed and that it's rude. I figure it might be a cultural thing, at that. I recall being at a Western Sizzler of all things with my extended family, and my uncle and cousin almost getting in a fight when they told someone not to curse at the hostess and in front of a family.

Regardless, if someone wants to lace their thoughts and words with profanity, I figure they're free to do so, just don't gripe when people think less of them for doing it.
posted by Atreides at 10:50 AM on October 21, 2008


You were way ahead of me, MarshallPoe. In 3rd grade I'm pretty sure "poopyhead" was the height of my rhetoric. "Moron" didn't come into use much until I joined the football team.
posted by illiad at 10:58 AM on October 21, 2008


Coincidentally, bleeping Microsoft just got a bleeping patent for a bleeping method for real-time automatic bleeping censorship of an bleeping audiostream.
posted by Skeptic at 10:49 AM on October 21 [+] [!]

Eponysterical?

Back in the days when the earth's crust was cooling and local BBSes ruled the land, my hometown newspaper* had several forums for users. In a move to make it family friendly, it disallowed dirty words; or rather, dirty character strings. Fine, nobody can type 'fuck' or 'cocksucker,' but discussions about the changing political scene in Japan were constrained by an inability to mention recently ousted Japanese prime minister Takeshita, literary enthusiasts were unable to refer to Charles Dickens, and promotion of weekend garage sales needed to find a euphemism for Saturday.

In short, I am skeptical of the efficacy of any technological solution to the non-existent problem of people saying bad words. Anthony Burgess wrote a whole novel about whether it was better to be forced to be good than to be freely evil. Ironically, bad-word software is doubtless not able to screen out Nadsat. That being said, I would like to lovet the cally veck who came up with this nepolezny software veshch and kick him in the yarblockios, o my brothers.





*Incidentally, this same paper had a long-running TV ad playing up the "around-the-world/around-the-corner" aspect of the paper's coverage. In the ad an actress said, "It gives me things I can talk with my friends about." That is the sort of graceful prose it was using to advertise itself with, so you can imagine the brain trust behind this operation.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:58 AM on October 21, 2008


Why not have a cutoff time? After 10 PM, relax the rules. Kids are supposed to be in the bed at that point. It's the civilised solution.

In fact, this is already the case. The FCC indecency rules are only in effect between 6am and 10pm. After that, you can swear your ass off.


As long as it doesn't get obscene:

What makes material “obscene?”
Obscene speech is not protected by the First Amendment and broadcasters are prohibited, by statute and regulation, from airing obscene programming at any time. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, to be obscene, material must meet a three-prong test: (1) an average person, applying contemporary community standards, must find that the material, as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest (i.e., material having a tendency to excite lustful thoughts); (2) the material must depict or describe, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable law; and (3) the material, taken as a whole, must lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. The Supreme Court has indicated that this test is designed to cover hard-core pornography.

The funny thing is that obsenity can be heard in anti-obscene lyrics, while the mysoginy marches on.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:06 AM on October 21, 2008


MarshallPoe, I disagree with you on two points. Least importantly we've got the moron thing. I think it is a nice term to use when you might feel inclined to use much stronger, although perhaps not necessarily fair, words to describe someone you may be agreeing with tomorrow on another topic.

More importantly, we disagree on fuck. I think the best argument to use here is "Fuck you! You fucking, fuck."

Verb, adjective, noun. What other word is so versatile? What other word is so expressive? What other word is just so much fun to say (besides schaudenfreude and neologism)?

I have a good-sized vocabulary and yet fuck is a favorite word of mine. Not because I'm lazy, but because it is just a damn good word. It fits well in so many places. In between words and phrases. At the beginnings and ends of sentences, by itself or repeated for emphasis. Fuck is at home anywhere.

Plus on the grand scale of stuff I wish the FCC was keeping an eye on, fuck-age is not even on the list.
posted by BeReasonable at 11:06 AM on October 21, 2008


BeReasonable prompts a thought. I think that civility is extraordinarily important for rational discussion. Expletives--and particularly those directed at people you are talking to--are just distracting. They upset folks and move the discussion off the topic. I can't really think of any instance in which calling someone a "moron" or telling someone to "fuck off" would help a discussion. It might feel good, but it doesn't really move us forward. This sort of off-putting behavior is very prevalent on the web, largely because of anonymity and distance. People write things on the web they would never say in Meatspace. This may seem innocuous, but it's not. It has a hidden cost as it frightens people away from places like MetaFilter. I'd like to hear what this group of people has to say, but I never will because they are afraid they will be called "morons" or told to "fuck off." I think that's a shame.
posted by MarshallPoe at 11:30 AM on October 21, 2008


It's been said before but bears repeating: Censorship is un-fucking-American.
posted by mullingitover at 11:34 AM on October 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


Technically, America has had censorship from the very beginning, including by the Founding Fathers.
posted by Atreides at 11:48 AM on October 21, 2008


it disallowed dirty words; or rather, dirty character strings

It could be worse - it could be trying to replace those dirty strings.

Now that would be a really clbutty piece of software...
posted by DreamerFi at 11:50 AM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


I can't really think of any instance in which calling someone a "moron" or telling someone to "fuck off" would help a discussion.

You know, you're right. I got angry and tossed off a glib and mean retort. I apologize for that.

That said, I find your assertion that people who employ profanity--a mode of human expression that is found across all languages, as far as I can tell--are simply unable to think of "anything else to say" nearly as uncharitable a sentiment.
posted by Skot at 11:56 AM on October 21, 2008


I can't really think of any instance in which calling someone a "moron" or telling someone to "fuck off" would help a discussion.

Alas, there are many (more in Net.Space than Meatspace because the latter has immediate social consequences) who aren't interested in "helping" a discussion. They just want to win.
posted by illiad at 11:59 AM on October 21, 2008


"Glib" is probably flattering myself. It was mostly just stupid. Anyway. Sigh. Shut up, me.
posted by Skot at 11:59 AM on October 21, 2008


Wanna know something interesting? My brother, who works for Florida State Corrections, has noted that most dire and freakishly dangerous sociopaths he has come across don't like to swear. You know this one dude, who was a serial rapist, said when the cops finally kicked in his door?

"Oh. Fiddlesticks."
posted by tkchrist at 12:03 PM on October 21, 2008 [3 favorites]


I know exactly how you feel, except I cringe when people use cutesy words or euphemisms when a good old fashion profane word would suffice.

I remember a contestant on "So You Think You Can Dance" blurting out the phrase "shut the front door!" That insiduous affront to vulgarity haunts me to this day.

On the other hand, a properly inflected "dagnabbit!" remains a perfectly wonderful anachronism, particularly after spilling a newly purchased tin of shinola on the bench of one's Model T.
posted by malocchio at 12:12 PM on October 21, 2008


“I don't think this needs to be regulated by the government, because at the first swear word, the parents (i.e. the market) would cause an uproar.”

Yeah. Like I said I’m a bit on the fence. I think it sticks with the pocketbook. But I think a law would give more oversight to folks. On the other hand, I’d rather not hand the government any more power.
Still - something that assures there won’t be, say, a nipslip sort of thing.
I mean we know Sesame Street isn’t going to have profanity or nudity, but once my kid gets older I’d like to watch something relatively tame with them without worrying about it.
Seems like there’s people who want to shove that sort of thing in your face. And really, they’re not wrong. “Fuck” is arbitrarially taboo like other words now are no longer taboo.
But hey, there’s nothing wrong with sex toys either. Doesn’t mean I want them on the dinner table (well, during dinner anyway).

A cutoff time is ok. But again - enforcement?
I think the real problem is that I don’t mind the words. I don’t mind my kids using them since I know they’re going to hear them anyway.

I mind it getting in-between our relationship.
...I don’t know how to explain that. It just seems inappropriate to swear around my kids. Innocence maybe? I don’t know. Just seems wrong at a core level. And I know there’s some psychology there - but the oedipal stuff and other related things aside - I think there’s an intimacy that you have with your kids that is intruded upon by certain things.
Violence for example. Other extreme sorts of things.
(Meh. We mostly target our stuff anyway. T.V. is incidental, mostly for kids programming, nature/discovery stuff and film.
We read a lot or go outside.)
I just find myself changing the channel. Some are old enough to understand, some aren’t. But it doesn’t really matter. I get rid of it.

It just seems, more than anything else, obscenity or offensiveness, etc. - it just seems like an intrusion.
Wish I could explain it better.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:21 PM on October 21, 2008


The problem with obscenity and offensiveness is no one agrees on it. I'd rather a kid hear "fuck" a 1,000 times than some of the violence that is part and parcel of prime time TV shows. I mean Heroes has people getting their heads cut open, stabbings, shootings, blowings-up(?) and you can't tell me kids aren't watching that show. The same goes for young adult books. More and more, the adult part of "Young Adult" has more to do with violence than slipping in a good "god damn" or a nipple or two.

Nudity, profanity, even sex acts, to an extent, are all context-sensitive in their potential harmfulness, but violence is violent all the time.

I'm not arguing for a ban on violence, I think that would be impossible, but it'd be nice if violence could get some equal consideration.
posted by BeReasonable at 12:33 PM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, a properly inflected "dagnabbit!" remains a perfectly wonderful anachronism, particularly after spilling a newly purchased tin of shinola on the bench of one's Model T.

Apropos of nothing: this has reminded me of one of the more charming things I encountered when I was reading the Little House on the Prairie books. In Farmer Boy, which is all about the boyhood adventures of Laura Ingalls Wilder's husband Almanzo, there's an incident when he is trying to plow a field with a pair of particularly rebellious donkeys. And at some point, after repeatedly trying to get the donkeys to obey, they misbehave one last time.

And then this is what Laura Ingalls Wilder writes:

Almanzo swore: "Gol ding it!"

I've always wondered if "Gol ding it" was what he actually did say, and it was just considered to be a much, much harsher term in those days, or if he actually said something stronger and Laura Ingalls Wilder was trying to be genteel.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:57 PM on October 21, 2008




Expletives--and particularly those directed at people you are talking to--are just distracting. They upset folks and move the discussion off the topic.

I think getting a bit upset now and then is probably good for you, so we swearers are actually doing you a favor.

You're fucking welcome.
posted by finite at 2:18 PM on October 21, 2008


but I do think trying to keep things generally clean does keep us all from making it a habit.

Um, thanks, Mom, for keeping me from bad habits.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:20 PM on October 21, 2008


Profanity is used to make an impact. Use it too much and you dilute that impact.

This is not specific to profanity. Notice how little impact the words "new" and "improved" have when applied to any commercial product.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:28 PM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


One of the best text messages I ever received, on the night of the last federal election in Australia, when John Howard was voted out of power:

"Fuck yeah! The fucking fuckhead is fucking fucked! Fuck me..."

I was impressed by its erudition and eloquence. I fully intend to send a similar message to a friend in America in a couple of weeks.
posted by twirlypen at 3:15 PM on October 21, 2008


Incidentally, along the lines of swearing and censorship, I think back to the letters my grandfather wrote to his girlfriend/fiance during the war. He was a Marine aboard a navy vessel in the Pacific.

Whenever he wrote "Hell" or "Damn" he'd write the first letter, then have dashes for the remaining letters. He never used either that often.
posted by Atreides at 3:54 PM on October 21, 2008


Like Pinker said, words only have the power that we give them. We, as a society, have a general consensus on the relative badness of what they mean. And using those words in certain context convey a portion of that meaning depending upon what is being said.

What interests me is the sound of the words themselves. Look at fuck or cunt. The hard k sound, that fricative f, or piss with it's hissy ending. I think a lot of the words we see and somehow morally corrupt, or even just off-putting, have some really specific sound components that people instinctively react to in a primal kind of way. Those hissing, spitting, smacking noises that convey some kind of violence. Pussy has that a hissing medial, but it sounds cuter to me than piss. If someone says, piss on you, well ick, but I feel pissy, feels fine.

Then there are the words that specific individuals have a problem with. I don't like words with the sound oy in them. Boil, toil, etc, for some reason give me creepy feeling.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 3:58 PM on October 21, 2008


One of the best text messages I ever received, on the night of the last federal election in Australia, when John Howard was voted out of power:

"Fuck yeah! The fucking fuckhead is fucking fucked! Fuck me..."


there is a t-shirt I've occasionally seen for sale here in some of the stores known for more "outrageous" merchandise. All it says, in white type on black background, is:

FUCK YOU
YOU FUCKING FUCK

...I don't know how to react to this; it's crass, but...oddly satisfying.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:42 PM on October 21, 2008


What distresses me about the FCC's notion that 'fuck' (and variations) are okay if it's not sexual. If we're going to have this sort of regulation, I'd much rather it were the other way around.
posted by wobh at 9:39 PM on October 21, 2008


Swearing! Fuck yeah!
Emphasising some motherfucking shit yeah!
posted by Artw at 11:25 PM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]


Again, I feel that the lopsided situation in the states is a head-scratcher. Religion, as ever, is directly to blame.

Seeing a guy get the top of his skull cut off (and then his exposed brain)? Perfectly cool.

Seeing a woman's nipple? SACRILIGE! BURN IT WITH FIRE.

(Um, a baby gets milk from there. Hell, you might have sucked on one yourself...)

EVIL. SATAN'S BELL END! DESTROY. DO NOT WANT. THINK OF THE CHILDREN.

(I just was, actually)

HERETIC!
posted by chuckdarwin at 1:27 AM on October 22, 2008


METAFILTER: FUCK YOU
YOU FUCKING FUCK
posted by finite at 9:38 PM on October 22, 2008


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