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Taboo language in the NYT

Posted on my blog last month, an inventory of postings (on LLog and my blog) on the way the New York Times deals with taboo vocabulary, here. Three items since then: BZ, 4/16/12: The first “asshole” in the Times? (link) AZBlog, 4/29/12: Annals of French taboo avoidance (link) and today: AZBlog, 5/7/12: Reporting the profane […]

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Sinographic taboo against Islam

Tweet by Timothy Grose, a specialist on Islam in China, especially in Xinjiang: A confidant in #Xinjiang asked me to share this image/report: All 伊 characters (also used for "Islam" in Chinese 伊斯兰教) appearing on signage must be removed or changed to a homophone (e.g. 依). The rumor is that even the Chinese name for […]

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Translinguistic taboo avoidance: Arabicizing "Ayrault"

Bloomberg reports (rather delicately) that the name of France's new prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, is causing a bit of problem when it is transliterated into Arabic: "When spoken, his family name is colloquial Arabic in many countries for the third-person singular possessive form of the male sex organ." France's foreign ministry has nipped this problem […]

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Taboo toponymy

On the 23rd, the New York Times ran a "fun Friday" piece on British place names that are arguably offensive: Sarah Lyall, "No Snickering: That Road Sign Means Something Else". With photos of signs for Butt Hole Road (South Yorkshire), Pratts Bottom (Kent), and Penistone (South Yorkshire again — no, it's not pronounced the way […]

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Getting laid in the NYT (part 2)

A while back I commented on the New York Times's reluctance to print "get laid" (even in quoted speech). Then it occurred to me to check out what the paper did with the movie Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (1987: directed by Stephen Frears, screenplay by Hanif Kureishi). And, surprise, it had no problem with […]

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A few dollops of taboo avoidance

We're been writing about taboo avoidance here on Language Log for years. It's an arena in which Faithfulness (reproducing an original faithfully) conflicts with a type of Well-Formedness (cleaving to some rule about what is "right", "correct", "appropriate", etc.). I've posted many times about such conflicts on Language Log (a list, probably incomplete, of my […]

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Test obscenity, taboo avoidance, and prescriptivism

A little while back, there was a small media flap about the marking of the UK's GCSE (General Certification of Secondary Education) English exam back in 2006. The issue was an obscenity given as a response to one question, which nevertheless received a couple of marks. Controversy ensued.  The news stories had to cope with […]

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Taboo mystification

This one is beyond me (Stuart Elliott, "Speaking Profanglish",NYT 5/16/2008): People who attended the Univision presentation were buzzing about a closing remark made by Joe Uva, chief executive at Univision Communications. He wrapped up the event with a jocular, four-word question that ended with the phrase “Are you in?” The first word of the question […]

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Metaphor mixture of the week

Metaphor watch (from today's NYT): Trump's presidency is "a kind of perpetual arm-wrestling match between a capital full of institutions & a man set on bulldozing them, bending Official Washington to his rhythms & mores with every overnight Twitter missile & gilded indiscretion." — David Greenberg (@republicofspin) December 4, 2018

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Taking shit from the chancellor

Well, shitstorm, anyway: Melissa Eddy, "Some Words Defy Translation. Angela Merkel Showed Why." NYT 12/6/2018: Some words can’t be translated easily. But they can cross national borders, lose their original context along the journey, assume different meanings and crop up in unlikely places. This week, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany proved that point — memorably. […]

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An immodest proposal: "Boycott the Chinese Language"

So argues Anders Corr in the Journal of Political Risk, 7.11 (November, 2018): "Boycott the Chinese Language: Standard Mandarin is the Medium of Chinese Communist Party Expansion" What?  Are my eyes deceiving me?  Did he really say that? Starting right from the first paragraph, we can see that the author is serious: China is one […]

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Annals of unexpected bowdlerization

Emily Jane Fox, "Michael Cohen says Trump repeatedly used racist language before his presidency", Vanity Fair 11/2/2018: After the first few seasons of The Apprentice, Cohen recalled how he and Trump were discussing the reality show and past season winners. The conversation wended its way back to the show’s first season, which ended in a […]

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Slurs inside idioms are still slurs

Below is a guest post by Josef Fruehwald: Earlier this week (August 29, 2018, for readers in the future), Ron DeSantis, the Republican candidate for the governor of Florida, said of the victorious candidate of the Democratic Party, Andrew Gillum, that voters shouldn’t “monkey this up” and elect the left leaning Gillum. This has caused […]

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