Sweary links #26

Once upon a time, dear StrongLangers, we made a promise to keep you regularly updated with interesting sweary tidbits from the Wide World of Web. We kept that promise until we didn’t. It has been, we note with embarrassment, more than 30 months since we posted Sweary Links #25. Well, we’re going to atone for that lapse right now. Not with 30 months of links: are you fucking kidding? Baby steps. Here’s what caught our attention over the last month or so. To stay up to date, follow us on Twitter.

The word of the day, from English language maven Susie Dent, is shithouse.

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The linguistic case for shit hitting the fan. (Chi Luu for JStor Daily)

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Scunthorpe, Part 1: Scunthorpe Sans: a typeface that automatically censors itself. (h/t Bruno Agnese) For background on the Scunthorpe problem—“the unintentional blocking of websites, e-mails, forum posts or search results by a spam filter or search engine because their text contains a string of letters that appear to have an obscene or otherwise unacceptable meaning”—see this Wikipedia page.

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Scunthorpe, Part 2: Twitter’s anti-porn filters are blocking Dominic Cummings’ name from its list of trending topics. Cummings is the top adviser to British PM Boris Johnson; “as a result of the filtering,” writes Alex Hern in The Guardian, “trending topics over the past five days have instead included a variety of misspellings of his name, including #cummnings, #dominiccummigs and #sackcummimgs, as well as his first name on its own, the hashtag #sackdom, and the place names Durham, County Durham and Barnard Castle.”

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And speaking of Twitter:

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On the other hand:

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Fuck U Karen graffiti Oakland
“Fuck U Karen” sidewalk graffiti, Oakland, California, June 2, 2020. For “Karen” as epithet, see the Namerology blog.

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For you coders: The Fuck, “a magnificent app that corrects errors in previous console commands.” (h/t Thomas Cherryhomes)

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One-word grammar lesson: the best fucking word in the world. (H.R. Green for McSweeney’s)

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How bloody became a swear word. (Dave Wilton for WordOrigins.org)

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On the fifteenth anniversary of the premiere of “The Thick of It,” its creators—including writer and producer Armand Iannucci—look back on the creation of the groundbreaking political sitcom, which gave us the word omnishambles and introduced to the sublimely profane Malcolm Tucker, who was played by Peter Capaldi and in whose honor our annual Tucker Awards are named. An excerpt:

Scripts were sent to Ian Martin, a comedy writer from Lancashire tasked with making the swearing more creative. “His marks would be in red, so we’d scour the scripts for them when they came back,” Iannucci says. “His first one was, ‘He’s as useless as a marzipan dildo,’ which is at the start of the first episode.” Curses were a currency. In order to get a “c***” past the BBC, they had to row back on a few f***s. Capaldi would use “f***ing” as a holding word rather than um or ah, so scripts would be “de-f***ed” in advance.

(By Ed Cumming—that’s right, we said it—for The Independent)

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Question posed:

Question answered:

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How should we classify swears like douchenozzle, fuckbonnet, and shitgibbon? They’re swear-pyrrhic compounds—not as in Pyrrhic victory but as in the pyrrhic metrical foot: two unstressed syllables. (Dan Brooks for The Outline) For more on shitgibbon, see this 2017 post by Ben Zimmer.

 

 

11 thoughts on “Sweary links #26

  1. Beth Bostian June 5, 2020 / 9:04 pm

    I come from a long line of connoisseurs of profanity, and my father was an innovator in the field. When I was but a teen, he explained he’d been the one to invent what he called intersyllabication, an advanced technique cited in the Bonus Question on the Sweeney’s piece in Sweary Links #26.

    The concept is deliciously simple: when, in an inspired moment, you’ve strung together something like “absofuckinglutely” or “regoddamndiculous,” you have utilized his technique. A generous man, my Da released this concept as his gift to the universe—as one might a bit of shareware—asking only that we occasionally give a nod, or perhaps a toast, in his general direction.

    He was Barry Max Bostian (1940-2012), and I consider myself damned fortunate to be his progeny. Use his gift to us all in good health.

    Like

  2. Moonfriend June 7, 2020 / 1:51 am

    In Australia, ‘shithouse’ is an adjective and simply means ‘very bad’.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Chips Mackinolty June 8, 2020 / 5:53 am

    There is a further refinement of “shithouse” in Australian English. If someone is “built like a brick shithouse”, it means they are have a very strong physique, ie strongly built.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nancy Friedman June 8, 2020 / 1:34 pm

      American English has “built like a brick shithouse,” too, although it’s usually (always?) said of shapely women. In the 1977 Commodores song “Brick House,” there’s a significant pause between “brick” and “house” that lets you know which word was elided.

      Like

    • Patrick Collins June 8, 2020 / 5:44 pm

      After some earlier US brick walls, brick houses and brick schoolhouses, in 1933 Jack Conroy (of the USA) used “built like a brick outhouse”. The Canadian Earle Birney used “built like brick shathouses” in 1949.

      Like

  4. Ben Zimmer June 8, 2020 / 9:11 pm

    I wrote a bit about this in a piece for The Atlantic in 2018, when “shithouse” was in the news for Trumpian reasons.

    Over the years, shithouse has rarely been used in a complimentary way—except for the memorable simile “built like a brick shithouse,” for a muscular man or well-built woman. Ernest Hemingway provides one early example referring to a man in a 1928 letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald. Jack Conroy’s proletarian novel of 1933, The Disinherited, describes a woman’s figure with a slightly sanitized version of the expression: “Wilma’s a baby doll, built like a brick outhouse.” (The classic Commodores song “Brick House” supplies another euphemistic variation on the theme.)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Howard Ross October 3, 2020 / 11:46 pm

    I have always been intrigued by the cognitive difference between a random string of characters (%#*!) and the substitution of a few letters with hyphens (F—-) to hide an obscenity. The former must leave the text entirely to the reader’s imagination while the latter surely causes the reader to sub-vocalize it. In the spirit of teasing the prissy who wouldn’t dream of saying said word, but who would refer to the “F-bomb”, I have often wished that the consonants were replaced with hyphens, the vowels retained, and the reader left to scratch their head. “Oh -u—, I’ve forgotten my umbrella.”

    Like

    • tbc0 October 5, 2020 / 2:48 am

      Speaking of hyphenated swear words, I noticed Dickens replacing mild expletives with hyphens, and so he became my role model.

      Like

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