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The New York Times and Scatological Language

I was surprised to see this morning that the New York Times, for the first time that I can recall, published the s-word in one of its articles.

True, the s-word was used in a quotation, but it was still there. My understanding is that the Times makes a point of avoiding the s-word and the f-word; in fact, when they reported on the episode of South Park that used the s-word over 100 times in the space of one episode, they referred to the word with a variety of circumlocutions.

For those who are interested, the s-word appears in the article "Politics Seen in Nasty Call to Spitzer's Father" by Danny Hakim, which starts on page A1 and jumps to page A16 (at least in the New England Edition). On the website, the article has a slightly different title, G.O.P. Consultant Accused of Threatening Spitzer's Father, but it would appear to be the same article, with only slight alterations. And the s-word is present there as well.

The article quotes a caller as saying, "“There is not a goddamn thing your phony, psycho, piece-of-s*** son can do about it.”

Since the standards of Mabfan's Musings are different from those of the New York Times, I've edited the s-word accordingly, but in the Times, it is spelled out accurately and completely, a letter "s" followed by the three letters "hit" in that order.

Does anyone know if this is a change of policy or simply an error?


I wish I could say I'm shocked. But I also think I am the last person in America who refuses to use such language.

Also, I wish I could say the news story itself is shocking. But it's what we sadly expect from Albany now.
I was surprised the first time I saw "bulls---" in the Boston Globe. Not horrified, but taken aback, because there had been no announcement of a policy change.

If the Times plans to use scatalogy when appropriate, I have no real objection. But I want to be prepared for the possibility.

There are many in America who refuse to use such language, by the way. I use such language when I think it's appropriate, but not in my blog.
There are many in America who refuse to use such language, by the way. I use such language when I think it's appropriate, but not in my blog.

I too, refrain from profanity. So much so that for a while it was a game among my friends to try to get me to say a bad word. ("Imagine you were answering the questions on Inside the Actors Studio," they'd say.) The only times an opprobrious barnyard term passes my lips these days is: (a) watching or playing baseball; (b) if I've had more than a few shots of tequila. ;-)
The "Actor's Studio" questionnaire still wouldn't get me to say anything
unbroadcastable (did I just invent a -klunky - word?)

My *favorite* curse(words) is the one used by Elizabeth I of England, when she was most riled: "God's TEETH"

Mind you, I don't *use* it, it's just my favorite!

Carol (who doesn't swear unless VERY upset, and never gets scatalogical)
The policy at the Times is to print such language sparingly when necessary to explain a news event. They printed the word in the president's quote about Syria last year, for example. In this case, the exact language used is at the heart of the controversy. On the other hand, they've been circumspect in describing the fire chief's radio message from Saturday's tragic fire.
Also, note that the word in question does not appear until well down in the article. In the first paragraphs, the articl talks about the recorded message and its inclusion of foul language, but does not go into specifics. The quote comes quite a bit later, with all the rest of the details left for those who read the whole thing.
As an aside, the article (perhaps unwittingly) raises an interesting question. What constitues real proof these days? That is both a legal question and question for political partisans.
In 1992, during coverage of the LA Riots, an NBC crew covered a police officer shift, and did not bleep any of his words, with warning to the audience beforehand.

Honestly, I don't understand why the S-word is a bad word. It does not defile any deity, and either defines negative stuff or defecation, the latter of which is produced daily by every living thing regardless of age.

December 2016

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