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This forum is about wrong numbers in science, politics and the media. It respects good science and good English.

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The F word and me

There have been some adverse comments about the crudity of the automatic system of “obscenity” editing that is applied by the hosting service for this forum. Yes, I was responsible for switching it on and, yes, I am embarrassed by the puerile replacement of words such as the name of that tsunami-afflicted Japanese town by asterisks.

It was on the “graduation” day for apprentices, when we received our signed-off indentures, that I promised myself never again to get into the position of having to hear that word eight hours a day, every day, as virtually the only adjective, adverb and adverb of degree employed. Such usage was inversely correlated with the general level of skill required in a particular locale. I have no objection to the word itself or, indeed, any of the short related Anglo-Saxon physiological nouns and verbs, used in the proper context, generally in relation to coition or excretion. What I do object to is the routine abuse of those, or indeed any, words.

Yes, I have been known to emit such expletives orally when surprised by sudden pain or other mishaps, but that is quite different from trying to communicate ideas in our rich and beautiful language. It is lazy and dishonest; a nod to the current fad for identifying with the educationally deprived in an attempt to establish fashionable classlessness. Some of the offenders are even under the delusion that they are being brave. Putting the right word in the right place is demanding, but part of a duty of respect one has to ones reader.

I have derived great pleasure and much knowledge from our forum. It mainly comprises a small number of people of like minds, though varying opinions. They mostly observe the rule that “A wise man, when he has nothing to say, says just that – nothing.” Contrast that with what the likes of James Delingpole have to put up with. The Telegraph comments sections contain thousands of entries, most virtually meaningless. To try to read them is to descend into the valley of the trolls, with endless trading of formulaic insults, showing little signs of brains being engaged. Likewise, there are certain blogs that are full of useful information, but when they resort to such depths describing their opponents as vulvae they forfeit at least one regular adherent.

Re: The F word and me

John Brignell
Yes, I was responsible for switching it on and, yes, I am embarrassed by the puerile replacement of words such as the name of that tsunami-afflicted Japanese town by asterisks.

When I first encountered computing hands-on around 1978, I pronounced asterisk as "splat" because the mark looked like a splattered insect; and "splat" is much easier to say than asterisk; and more interesting than "star".

Poor 福島. First devastated by tsunami and suffering bouts of debilitating radiophobia; it's now been splattered by algorithms and inaccessible to the West.