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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

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Closestools, crappers, and horse buckets

Big news from China yesterday: "2,200-year-old flush toilet — oldest ever found — unearthed at palace ruins in China" Aspen Pflughoeft, Miami Herald / YahooThu, February 16, 2023 at 5:37 PM EST What a gift to humanity! All the terms in the title of this post mean one or another kind of toilet, but function […]

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How language shapes the way we think and speak

An eloquent cri de coeur: How Can China’s People Demand Freedom if We Can’t Even Say It? Mengyin Lin, NYT (Feb. 10, 2023) Notice that she speaks in the first person plural and has some very thought-provoking things to say about the recent Chinese protests in favor of freedom, such as: The demonstrations are best […]

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The sound of swearing

Trigger warning:  I'm VHM and I do not approve of this message in its entirety. Article by Elizabeth Preston in NYT (12/6/22): "Curse Words Around the World Have Something in Common (We Swear)" These four sounds are missing from some of the seven words you can never say on television, and the pattern prevails in […]

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"A French word that is more vulgar"?

Norimitsu Onishi, "Using Harsh Language, Macron Issues a Challenge to the Unvaccinated", NYT 1/5/2022: Faced with a surge in coronavirus cases driven by the Omicron variant, President Emmanuel Macron of France said Wednesday that he wanted to “piss off” millions of his citizens who refuse to get vaccinated by squeezing them out of the country’s […]

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