The rise of the shitgibbon

Pennsylvania state senator Daylin Leach got a lot of attention this week for a colorful expletive hurled at Donald Trump, appearing on Leach’s Facebook and Twitter feeds.

As Leach’s “fascist, loofa-faced, shit-gibbon” line made the rounds on social media, he didn’t back down from the characterization (which was inspired by reports that Trump had threatened to “destroy the career” of a Texas state senator over the civil asset forfeiture issue). His spokesman Steve Hoenstine doubled down.

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The 2nd Annual Tucker Awards for Excellence in Swearing

Last year we introduced a year-end roundup celebrating the best in sweary language: The Tucker Awards. The Tuckers are named after the one and only Malcolm Tucker, Peter Capaldi’s gloriously obscene character from the BBC’s political satire The Thick of It and the big-screen version In the Loop.

Let’s get started with 2016’s best moments in swearing. As Mr. Tucker would say, come the fuck in or fuck the fuck off.

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Watershed Moments: Donald Trump, Rakeyia Scott, and the Times

The following is a guest post by Blake Eskin, an editor and writer who has kept track of expletive avoidance by the New York Times, with his Tumblr Fit to Print and the #fittoprint hashtag on Twitter.

Ben Zimmer called the dissemination of Donald Trump’s recorded conversation with Billy Bush a “watershed moment in public profanity,” since major news outlets such as CNN and the New York Times presented Trump’s remarks without bowdlerization. Even Times subscribers who avoid the internet and cable news had to confront the words “pussy” and “fuck” on Page One, above the fold and before the jump, on their way to the Saturday crossword.

Let’s compare this with how the Times handled the death of Keith Scott two weeks earlier.

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A banner day for profanity

It’s safe to say that October 7, 2016 will go down in history as a watershed moment in public profanity. On this day, a recording emerged of the Republican nominee for president saying utterly reprehensible things about women, featuring no fewer than four taboo words: pussy, fuck, bitch, and tits. (His interlocutor threw in one more: shit.) And major news outlets had to decide whether they should transcribe the quotes verbatim, in some cases setting new precedents in how they handle such vocabulary.

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What the digamma?

On Facebook, Jay Dillon posted an intriguing verse that appeared in Prize Translations, Poems, and Parodies, Reprinted from The Journal of Education (1881).

Jay muses that the line “What the digamma?” might actually be a disguised form of “What the fuck?” since the archaic Greek letter digamma (Ϝ) strongly resembles the Latin letter F (even though it was originally pronounced as /w/). So was the author of this verse cleverly using Homeric Greek to express a proto-WTF?

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