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Offensive language and *s

Warning: The following entry contains language which may upset some readers. If you think this is a reason to stop reading, you might want to skip this post. The language is necessary for context though.

I was reading an article in a newspaper the other day, where a school kid held a knife to a girl and told her, "I'm going to kill you, you ******* Russian" (their *s, not mine). This follows on from similar stories in years past, such as one where a footballer was in trouble for referring to a player as a "black c***"

Now, I will be brutally honest here. I know some words which I wouldn't use in a technical report. I'm fairly sure that ******* was meant to be fucking, and I am even surer that c*** was meant to be cunt. The *s don't really change the meaning. If we know what the word is, then whether you print it or not doesn't really change anything. Anyone who knows what the word, is unlikely to be any more offended by "c***" than by "cunt" and so I don't see what the difference is.

More importantly, both the quotes are offensive. The offensive part of both quotes is not the *ed bit. It seems to me that, suggesting you are going to kill someone because they are Russian, or using skin colour as part of a taunt is far more offensive than any colloquialism referring to a body part or function.

If someone was to call someone else a "dirty fucking ****", where the **** is the particular racial, religious, cultural, social or other group that the target belongs to, the offensive part is calling them dirty because they are a ****. If I tell someone that "you're an awesome fucking guy" (there's a hiccup in there somewhere), that will generally not be offensive (unless they are female).

Comment by Raymond Lubansky. Contributed 4/7/2005

I think that replacing a word with stars can have a positive effect. Expletives do have their place in language, particularly in emotive negative emphasis or letting off steam. When you see a word that you know is indelicate in broad society you get an immediate effect. If you replace the word then you get across the point without being directly indelicate.

I agree that the offensive sentiment is far worse than the offensive language. However, that doesn't make the use of offensive language necessary. An improvement would be to have the number of stars not reflect the number of letters. Better yet, not to promote how to be offensive would be an excellent thing.


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