The whimsical world of emoji swearing

This is a guest post by Dr Philip Seargeant, Senior Lecturer in Applied Linguistics at the Open University. Philip has published extensively on topics such as language and social media, English around the world, and language and creativity. With his colleagues he produced the acclaimed video series The History of English in Ten Minutes. He tweets at @philipseargeant.

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How do you say ‘cockwomble’ in emoji?

Is it possible to swear in emoji? According to BuzzFeed, the answer’s a definite yes. In what has all the elements of an archetypal BuzzFeed post, the site provides a handy run-down of twenty-one useful emoji expletives. This includes staples such as ‘bastard’ 👪🚫💍 and ‘wanker’ 👐⚓️. Then there are the slightly more esoteric terms like ‘cockwomble’ 🐓🐹, which led the vanguard in the Scottish anti-Trump protests last summer. And finally there are a few useful compounds such as ‘bollock-faced shit licker’ 🍒😃💩👅.

While emoji may have started life as a way of adding fairly straightforward emotion-related context to a message – a smiling face at the end of a sentence to indicate that you’re joking, etc. – as their popularity has grown, so has the range of functions for which they’re used. Nowadays they can be employed for everything from expressing political allegiances, to conveying threats and combating cyberbullying.

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Freak those monkey-fightin’ melon farmers!

Snakes on a Plane was, if nothing else, a success of marketing over, well, every other aspect of filmmaking. Even those who resisted watching it are likely to be familiar with a line from Samuel L. Jackson, so successfully did it percolate into pop culture (video NSFW; assume the same throughout):

It’s a good line and a great delivery, but family-friendly it ain’t. So as a happy consequence it was dubbed for TV into the wonderful non sequitur ‘monkey-fightin’ snakes on this Monday-to-Friday plane’ (and with fuckin’ softened to freakin’):

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New voice transcription feature in Google Docs censors (some!) swearwords

Google Docs announced today that you can now create documents using your voice.  And of course, like any good linguist, I immediately went to try to stump it. It’s pretty good, actually — it recognized both pronunciations of “gif” and “aunt” in the contexts “animated ___” and “uncle and ___” although it tended to assume that I might have the bit/bet merger, which I most emphatically do not, and thus presented me with a few transcriptions that felt like odd candidates to me.

But then I tried swearwords and hit the fucking jackpot. Continue reading

Accessible bowdlerization

I’ve been experimenting with screen readers as part of my research on creating accessible documents for people with print disabilities. Popular screen-reading programs include

  • VoiceOver, which comes free on a Mac;
  • NVDA, which is free to download for Windows; and
  • JAWS, a Windows program that costs $179 for a ninety-day licence or $895 for the home edition.

Of course, because I have the mentality of a twelve-year-old, the first thing I did was run VoiceOver on the Strong Language tag cloud, which the software recited with aplomb.

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Sweary links #6

For your weekend reading pleasure, a bumper batch of sweary shit from around the internet. You may have seen some of these items before, especially if you follow @stronglang on Twitter, but I bet there’s something new here even to devotees.

Romance writer KJ Charles has a great defence (and examination) of swearing in fiction, showing its importance in conveying character and mood, among other things.

I’m not ashamed of my name, says Mr Fuck (pronounced ‘foo-key’).

Swearwords help boost awareness of sign language at Adelaide Fringe festival.

There’s been a lot of anger and sarcasm in bookish circles at the ‘Clean Reader’ app that (ineptly) replaces profanities and vulgarities with sanitised alternatives: ‘chickenshit bullshit’, as Strong Language‘s @VoxHiberionacum pithily described it. Lionel Shriver has a smart response in the Guardian:

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