File /Humanist.vol22.txt, message 462

From: Humanist Discussion Group <>
Date: Sat, 24 Jan 2009 08:59:29 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: [Humanist] 22.472 rude words online

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 22, No. 472.
         Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to:

  [1]   From:    Willard McCarty <>          (28)
        Subject: publishing rude words

  [2]   From:    Ian Johnson <>                (87)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 22.471 rude words online?

  [3]   From:    Virginia Knight <>           (77)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 22.471 rude words online?

  [4]   From:    John Laudun <>                             (47)
        Subject: Re: rude words online?

  [5]   From:    James Rovira <>                       (4)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 22.471 rude words online?

        Date: Fri, 23 Jan 2009 07:29:27 +0000
        From: Willard McCarty <>
        Subject: publishing rude words

This is somewhat tangential to Alun Edwards' recent query about putting
rude words online. If the person wanting to do such things is not aware
of the following he or she might want to look at Maladicta: The
International Journal of Verbal Aggression
(, 1977-1989, then 1994-6,
approximately; Tony McEnery's Lancaster Corpus of Abuse, for which
see his "Swearing in English", Applied Linguistics 27.3 (2006); and 
among more specialised works, James N Adams, The Latin Sexual Vocabulary 
(1990). I should explain, perhaps, that I ran across Maladicta while 
doing some research into onomastics (the study of names), where rude 
epithets get attention. In other media, the work of Lenny Bruce and, 
more recently, Steve Anderson's documentary Fuck (Mudflap Films)
are worth a look. But here I stop arbitrarily.

Maladicta and the personal history of its editor both exhibit the perils 
of this research, psychological and legal. In reading around in the 
journal I found myself wondering more than once about the motivations of 
the authors published there. But the subject is genuinely fascinating, 
no doubt, psychologically, linguistically, philologically and so on. 
And, of course, the particular problem about which Alun has enquired 
makes bad language a subject for computational research.

Willard McCarty, Professor of Humanities Computing,
King's College London,;
Editor, Humanist,;
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews,

        Date: Fri, 23 Jan 2009 18:45:07 +1100 (EST)
        From: Ian Johnson <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 22.471 rude words online?
        In-Reply-To: <>

A small script to convert the rude word to an image - we've used thsi to
create symbols for maps - would seem to me to be the best appraoch, or you
could use a service - a quick search on 'text to image' turned up but I am suere there will be others


Ian Johnson

Director, Archaeological Computing Laboratory
Deputy Director, Digital Innovation Unit
Senior Research Fellow, Archaeology


  Archaeological Computing Laboratory

  Digital Innovation Unit in the Humanities and Social Sciences

  Room 310 - 314, F09 Madsen Building, University of Sydney, NSW 2006
  +61 (0)2 9351 2552 (direct) ..3142, ..8981 (msg) 3644 (fax)
  +61 (0)402 389 190 mobile


  Esparoutis, St Cybranet 24250
  +33 (0)5 53 28 39 24 fixed
  +33 (0)6 37 18 93 42 mobile

Project URLS:

  Rethinking Timelines:
  Associate of the Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative

        Date: Fri, 23 Jan 2009 09:53:09 +0000
        From: Virginia Knight <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 22.471 rude words online?
        In-Reply-To: <>

I'm afraid I can't offer practical suggestions, but you might be interested 
in the article by Seth Finkelstein on censorware and search-engine 
filtering, and the resulting 'internet burka of "safeness"', in yesterday's 

We all I'm sure have our favourite examples of 'false positives' scored by 
such systems, even where no remotely rude words are used. I found that a 
usually reliable anti-spam system used to play havoc with book reviews 
where the word 'longer' occured near the abbreviation 'pp.' and didn't like 
me signing off 'Best Wishes, Virginia' (at my suggestion they amended their 
criteria to avoid these problems). A public library I know abandoned one 
censorware package which substituted X's for 'rude words', after a reader 
found themselves looking at a page about Her Majesty's CustomX & XXcise.

Virginia Knight
Virginia Knight, Institute for Learning and Research Technology
Tel: +44 (0)117 331 4369  Fax:  +44 (0)117 331 4396
University of Bristol, 8-10 Berkeley Square, Bristol BS8 1HH
Official homepage:
Personal homepage:
ILRT homepage:

        Date: Fri, 23 Jan 2009 08:39:54 -0600
        From: John Laudun <>
        Subject: Re: rude words online?
        In-Reply-To: <>

The "very public" nature of the web does raise some interesting  
questions. As a folklorist, I have published the complete transcripts  
of very lively -- also known as rude some places -- speech. Of course,  
the very thing that we sometimes laments about paper (its cost  
circumscribing distribution, etc.) made it possible to leave  
"everything in." When asked to "clean up" a similar piece for a piece  
going into all the state's school libraries, I used an em dash to  
alter parts of words that would otherwise be recognizable to knowing  
readers but not otherwise flaggable as offensive. (The asterisk leads  
has multiple uses in searches.)

And so, I think everyone recognizes "motherf—er", and it doesn't have  
the disadvantage of looking like pr0n, which can be nonsensical to a  
percentage of readers. (Surely someone somewhere has catalogued all  
the standardized typos? Does anyone have a link?)

If everything being elided is kept in context, most readers have no  
problem understanding what it is they are (not) seeing.

I hope that helps. But, to your larger point, it would be nice to have  
some sort of broader set of conventions in place that we could all  
reliably use.



John Laudun
Department of English
University of Louisiana – Lafayette
Lafayette, LA 70504-4691
Twitter/Facebook: johnlaudun

        Date: Fri, 23 Jan 2009 09:53:30 -0500
        From: James Rovira <>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 22.471 rude words online?
        In-Reply-To: <>

Might want to look around at the various slang dictionaries already
available online -- see how they get around it, and then consider how what
may be put up here will be different.

Jim R

List posts to:
List info and archives at at:
Listmember interface at:
Subscribe at:


Humanist Main Page


Display software: ArchTracker © Malgosia Askanas, 2000-2005