Cannot we speak like thoughtful adults and not drunken sailors?


Got an email from an LISNews reader with some thoughts on how someone in particular writes here that I think we could all learn from:

I know we abhor censorship, but cannot we speak like thoughtful adults and not drunken sailors? Would you talk this way to patrons in his library? If not, why must we speak this way to professional colleagues?


But ...but... there's so many more things you can do with the drunken sailor than the librarian. All you can do with the librarian is get shushed. And well, what can you do with a drunken sailor? I'll tell you what we can do with a drunken sailor...

*starts to tune his voice*


"Cannot we speak?" Wow, that e-mailer obviously thinks rather highly of him/herself. I hope this person isn't speaking to patrons in that strainedly formal way, either.

It's for adults that don't want to read you swearing like you're in junior high school. It's about understanding that acting like an idiot does nothing but drive people away. It's about wanting just one little website to be different than all the rest.

Swearing doesn't constitute behaving like a middle schooler. Joyce, Miller (Henry), Pryor, Carlin, Mamet, Updike, Irving and others show us that "swear words" are as much a part of our species as the 299,999 other words with better reputations.

I'm not Carlin and I'm not Joyce and last I checked I wasn't Pryor. But you can't pretend that the use of these words automatically means "childish" or "idiot."

Personally, I think when I curse it's measured and restrained most of the time and I don't see how my cursing makes me look like an idiot. Or any more of an idiot than a grown person recoiling in horror at a word that means "sex" that she's heard a thousand times before.

This web site is different in that it's the best place to get library news digested and professionally packaged. That's the primary reason I continue to visit. The news is high quality and most of the people are very nice.

You can't change the fact that the site lives on the internet and that flesh-and-blood people visit and post. Doo-doo happens, as cats back at the junior high school say.

If you feel that swearing is so corrosive and damaging then ban it from the site. It's you're shop. I'll still visit it. I'll whine but I'll stll come.

But don't allow it, complain about it and then come down on people who wish to play with all the clubs in their bag.

"Would you talk this way to patrons in his library?"<<

Actually, some patrons deserve to be talked that way (in the library or elsewhere). While I would never fire the first salvo, once some patron gets rude or abusive, it's open season, and I have no qualms to let the sailor cannons fire.

Having said that, I do agree, there has to be a balance. Not too drunken, but sure as hell not as formal as "can we not" either. Loosen up.

Odds of drunken sailor ending up in bed with the captain's daughter: 100%
Odds of thoughtful adults ending up in bed with the captain's daughter: 4%

I think the "choice" is clear.

I think the Captain's Daughter refers to the Captain's whip.

So, where are all these posts with bad language? Cause I think I am missing them and I would really like some amusement during the day.

As with any tool, you use the right tool for the right job. If I am so totally PO'ed with someone that the only way to express my contempt for them is to use vulgarities, I will do so. Demands that we moderate our language in such a way that we cannot express the full range of feelings which have been invoked is covert censorship.

Aside from that, you are not responsible for my reactions to anything you might write no matter in what language it might be couched. My blaming you for the reactions I feel is simply an attempt to abdicate responsibility for myself. As a result, pandering to the whiners, snivelers, and langauge prudes on this issue makes us their enablers. This is not a healthy relationship.

This at one time was a place for reasoned discussion, it had more rational discussion and less name calling and vulgarity.

You want to see the people who use the vulgarity, it is often people promoting pornography and freedom to be a pervert in libraries.

Try using google to look for a*****e that will take you to a google results set with rude text so don't click on it if you don't care for that sort of thing. Google site search is most illuminating in this matter.

Now try the 7 'Carlin' words.

You will see several names repeatedly.

I have seen participation on LISNews drop off, and more importantly I have seen intelligent discussion drop off. You needn't agree with someone to have an intelligent discussion. Dr. de la Pena McCook and I don't agree on much, but I enjoyed discussions with her, and with others that disagreed with me. It is only through the challenge to our or beliefs that we learn and grow.

One person even went to such lengths as to post vulgarity for the sake of posting vulgarity to test a filter. The same person who suggests we save the easily offended and ban everything. Vulgarity is not edgy, and hip, this is not sixth grade.

Dissapointing if you ask me. LISNews had much more value a short time ago, but the times have changed, and now it seems to be a haven for supporters of perverts and offensive material. Too bad.

I want you all to know that all the bad fucking language has made mdoneil very disappointed in all of us.

This at one time was a place for reasoned discussion

This from someone who goes out of his way to mis-invoke Godwin's Law to preempt rational discussion. Mature-minded people do not fear the mention of Adolf Hitler or the use of words.

Oh, and here's a clue, mdoneil: the Taliban of Afghanistan outlawed applause and paper bags as offensive to Islam.

Remember the "Scrotum" Affair from The Power of Lucky? That word is correct, latinate, anatomical terminology. The word "vagina", that's another one. Correct terminology. Not vulgarities. And yet those easily offended hysterics to whom you would have us be enablers, would not allow those words either.

There is nothing that cannot be found offensive by someone, somewhere.

You posted the list of vulgar words simply to see if it would get caught in a filter.

Godwin's Law is not truly a Law as one commonly thinks of a Law -demonsgrated by scientific examination and found to be universal and immutable. Godwin's 'Law" is an adage coined by Mark Godwin counsel for the EFF almost two decades ago. The 'Law' actually refers to the degradation of a discussion about any subject in a Usenet group and the probability that the longer the discussion continues the more likely someone is to mention Hitler. How one can mis-invoke something that is a comical adage is beyond me. However you frequently invoke Hitler as show here, and if you note Godwin's 'Law' was invoked by not by me.

I have mentioned Hitler in a post or two, although they were not rabid nonsense as yours frequently are. In fact I even posited that librarians could manage a Hitler library and present facts without political or ideological distortion in this thread.

Others invoke Hitler when they speak of the Bush Library at SMU. You yourself have compared the President to Nazis.

I have indeed mentioned Godwin twice, if you wish to search the archives. The first was in response to the comment "It's an interesting argument, Matthew, but I believe a few million dead Jews would disagree with you if they could speak." A most appropriate use of Dr. Godwin's adage. If you note in the thread, you are vulgar and insulting as usual.

The second was in response that a sex offender registry was the way Hitler started and which included a quote from the vile man. You of course were vulgar in that thread as well.

You however seem quite wrapped up in both Godwin and vulgarity. When reading the archives I found Blake's response to yet another of your diatribes about the use of the Godwin adage most telling, truthful, and remarkably amusing.

What the Tabliban's banning of paper bags and applause - which I doubt as I can find no authoratative mention of this in a Factiva search of the relevant terms- has to do with you being vulgar is beyond me.

I do recall the scrotum discussion in which some people objected to the use of the word in a Newberry award winning childrens' book. I made a humours comment completely unrelated to the term. In the same thread you went on a rant about the Republicans.

I never suggested that appropriate medical terms not be used when indicated. I am unclear why you feel that anyone has.

Fang-Face you are simply vulgar. I find that you fail to offer any substantitive discussion. You are not a librarian yet you are frequent LISNews to post diatribes against the United States and our elected officials from your home in Canada. It seems you have many unaddressed issues, and I shan't waste any more time responding to you.

I have long given everyone the benefit of knowing this is asynchronous impersonal communication and lacks the nuances present in face to face communication. Sometimes people come off at first glance much different than they truly are because of the limitations of the medium we use to communicate. In your case I think I may be correct. After reading and responding to you for quite some time I am confident that you are truly an inelegant, unrefined, vulgar jerk.

I imagine you and her have very different opinions of your discussions.

Sometimes I am quite opinionated in my discussions, that certainly does not mean that I don't learn from them. I have learned many things from Dr. de la Pena McCook even though we have ideological differences.

I would hope that the fact that she knows she has provided valuable insight and challenged my thinking - even if I don't always changed my mind, outweighs the fact that she thinks I am at times a jerk.

The indications are that swearing preceded the development of cursing. That is, expletives, maledictions, exclamations, and imprecations of the immediately explosive or vituperative kind preceded the speechmaking and later rituals involved in the deliberate apportioning of the fate of an enemy. Swearing of the former variety is from the lips only, but the latter is from the heart. Damn it! is not that same as Damn you!
- Ashley Montagu (Author of The Anatomy of Swearing)

“Profanity is the common crutch of the conversational cripple.”
- David Keuck

The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.
--George Washington

“The idea that no gentleman ever swears is all wrong. He can swear and still be a gentleman if he does it in a nice and benevolent and affectionate way.”
--Mark Twain

“When angry, count to four. When very angry, swear.”
--Mark Twain

“What a lie it is to call this a free country, where none but the unworthy and undeserving may swear.”
--Mark Twain

My swearing doesn't mean any more to me than your sermons do to you.
--Mark Twain to Rev. Joe Twichell, quoted in Mark Twain and Hawaii, by Walter Francis Frear

There is nothing that cannot be found offensive by someone, somewhere.

"There is nothing that cannot be found offensive by someone, somewhere."

As much as I agree with that, there is also plenty of things that are found offensive by most people most of the time.

there is also plenty of things that are found offensive by most people most of the time

I agree. What I find personally find offensive are the arrogant assumptions of the small minded that they have some kind of divinely inspired qualification for proclaiming what is offensive for the rest of us.

Materials that can be categorized as unprotected speech, however, are those which can reasonably be judged by an empaneled jury to be without social merit by having failed the Miller Test, or which are libelous, or countenance the commission of a specific crime.

Pornography -- an indefinable quality and completely subjective determination -- is protected speech. You don't have to like it. But you do have to allow others to engage in it. And those who do are not responsible for you hypersensitivity to it. If one establishes a three-tier hierarchy of offensiveness for materials, where to be offensive de jure means the material must at least be indecent by the U.S. Supreme Court definition of the term for drawing Safe Harbor provisions, then "vulgar" is still not proscribable. For more on that, see my op/ed:

A Hierarchy of Offensiveness

In any event, the upshot of it is that just because someone, somewhere, might conceivably get a bug in their britches over the word scrotum or vagina does not create in anyone else an obligation to not use those words, and there is nothing so innocuous that it cannot possibly set off somebody. If we become enablers to the hypersensitive, then we will not be allowed to utter any words at all.

There is nothing that cannot be found offensive by someone, somewhere.

Calivin and Hobbes comic strip. Calvin is on the phone. The conversation on the other end cannot be heard.

Calvin: County library? Reference desk, please.
Hello? Yes, I need a word definition.

Calvin: Well, that's the problem. I don't know how to spell it and I'm not allowed to say it. Could you just rattle off all the swear words you know and I'll stop you when...Hello?”

There's a time and place for everything, even swearing. This site, I would think, would be a place for some swearing on occasion. That being said, my personal belief is of moderation. If you can't get your point across without using a curse every other word, I think you need to calm down just a bit before posting. Accentuate your point with cursing, but don't hide behind those words.

I'm not offended by the cursing, as it is a personal vice. However, have never posted a comment with cursing. Common courtesy for others and never knowing what sites have filters on such language. When the need for cursing arises, I prefer the F-bomb. Such a versatile word. :)

"This site, I would think, would be a place for some swearing on occasion."

Interesting, not sure I'd agree, but I'm glad I know someone things it is.

I'm with Billy Connolly on this one. You show me the proper English equivalent for the words "Fuck off" and I'll gladly use it.

Swearing, at least in my opinion, comes from two places: ignorance and passion. The moron walking down the street, talking into his cellular, and using the word fuck like a comma? He's ignorant. There's a good chance that he doesn't even know he's doing it because he's done it for so long. There's also a pretty decent chance that he has no idea what a better word might be.

We all happen to work in a very rare field. It's not rare as in what we do, but rare as in how we feel. Most librarians feel like their field is important, very important. Let the politicians die, let the lawyers burn, to hell with the mechanics, and damn the people who cook your food at the restaurant. Those people are not in a profession that is half as important as librarians. In some ways, that's true. I seriously doubt you're going to find many line cooks who think they're making a real difference in people's lives. You'll find a few, sure, but not many. How many grocery store clerks think they're using their skills to educate the future and change the world?

So unlike the line cook who peruses the new menu changes and the grocery clerk who flips through a supermarket professional magazine left in the break room, we have this idea that we're doing something important, dammit. And if it's important to us, then we're passionate about it.

Some books contain the machinery required to create and sustain universes. Tycho (Jerry Holkins) @ Penny Arcade

You show me the proper English equivalent for the words "Fuck off" and I'll gladly use it.

Fornicate thyself away from here.

Doesn't seem to have the same punch.

There is nothing that cannot be found offensive by someone, somewhere.

I understand passion/anger, but what do you have to gain, and what does LISNews have to lose from the use of bad words?

Fornicative Descriptors:

Fornicative descriptors are any use of the word "fuck", whether as adjective, adverb, verb, gerund, noun, or whatever. Personally, I'd rather use that than the trite, coy, and disingenious phrase "the F-word". For those who find the phrase "fornicative descriptors" too high brow or unwieldy, I offer as a slang alternative: Fornicgraphy; pronounced fore-nick-graphy.

Fornicgraphy can be used to mean the whole set of fornicative descriptors themselves or the use of one of those descriptors, such as U2's fornicgraphy at the 2003 Golden Globe Awards.

Both terms were coined by Michael Nellis

There is nothing that cannot be found offensive by someone, somewhere.

What we need are some substitutes for bad words. Here is the new and improved list of approved profanity on LISNEWS.

1) Shucky darn
2) By wilikers
3) Jiminy Crickets
4) gosh darn
5) golly gee
6) Man O Man
7) buttercutter
8) Tarnation
9) raka frakin
10) Holy Blake

I use very similar phrases myself when at home. But usually limit myself to:
1) Dang.
2) Dang it.
3) Dang diddly-ang.
4) Darn.
5) Darn it.
6) Darn diddly-arn.

my comment got flagged as offensive???? I posted a comment that wasn't any more offensive than what's here, and it was posted because I saw it this morning, but now it's gone??? I don't get it.

What happened here?

I posted a comment: Sun, 24 Aug 2008 02:50:22 -0400 effinglibrarian comment 34751 at (found as cached copy)
but then it disappeared.

So I thought it got deleted for being offensive.
So I reposted the exact message again, but removed any words that I thought might have offended someone.

(link to cached copy here,

I saw and read your post. I have also seen a few pink box errors (red box perhaps) in the last few days so I think it was more of a db error than a removal. I don't think Blake removes things. I don't think things should be removed simply because someone finds them offensive - not that they should not be addressed.

I am not the Jeebus squad. I just don't think we need so much profanity. I think we are smarter than than. Vulgarity has always marked someone as common and oft uneducated. We are librarians, or otherwise educated people, we should be able to find a thesaurus.

There is a big hole where comment #34751 should be, but I have no access to anything that tells me where it went. There are a few people that can delete comments, but I don't know that they did. I don't know really what happened, if it was a story there would be a trail to follow, but comments don't have such a log written.

I understand the complaint. But this is not your library. You should never accept some of this vulgar language at your meeting for which brand of low-fat muffin to include in your break-room vending machine.
So, yeah, when the casual visitor comes to LISNews to see professional discussion on library-related issues, "Shucky darn"s and "By wilikers"s probably aren't expected. Those people need to decide if the ideas discussed have more value than the language used.
I don't like reading personal attacks. I see that some of the regular contributors break up into the left-wing, right-wing argument: "you love Jiminy Crickets/gosh darn, so I hate you." Personally, I'm glad "golly gee" contributes because without him, the Man O Man team might need to forfeit the game. And then at whom would the buttercutter team curse?
Sometimes I see "too many" Tarnations and raka frakins on the screen that I fear a patron or my boss might walk up and question what I'm reading, whereby I'd need to answer, "Holy Blake off. a librarian never defends what he's reading, Shucky darn." You know, because that's what's on my MLS diploma (but in Latin, of course).

I guess for me that casual visitor matters. If you people are scaring people off (whether they be casual or regular readers) then you're certainly not doing anything for anyone, other than making yourselves look like idiots and making people avoid LISNews.

And that might not matter to you guys, but it matters to me.

(This isn't directed at effing in particular, it's just a general response to the conversation)

I thought there was this whole discussion months ago about deleting posts, and it was decided that "almost" anything goes. Because we are adults and we should be able to express ourselves with being censored.

But honestly, I don't like seeing some of this language here. Yes, I use it, but I'm the kind of idiot who gets that inch and goes a mile.

If Blake finds this language offensive, then I'll stop using it.

Your language couldn't possibly offend me, I've been doing this way too long, it's everyone else I worry about.

While I continue to frequent this blog, several colleagues of mine have decided to abandon ship, due to perceived drama, cursing, etc.

I am a pretty liberal person, but I don't curse in public. Probably because I was raised old school south. If you guys want to curse, fine. This is not my website and I have no say over what goes on here. However, let me play devil's advocate (or mdoneil's advocate as it were)

I teach bibliographic instruction classes all the time, and I also teach classes on RSS feeds to groups of professional librarians, engineers and marketing researchers. I was recently teaching a class and some of my students made comments about things they'd seen on this (and other librarian blogs, to be fair). I have a large bibliography of professional research blogs I distribute to students. In the last year, I have observed things getting a bit less curteous on these blogs, and I've had a lot of people in my classes come back to me and ask me if librarians are typically like this. One person used the term "bitchy." I get a lot of great content off this site, but sometimes I cringe when I'm doing a presentation in front of a bunch of people, and some "a-hole" comment shows up on my feed. In fact, I took this site off my RSS feed for that reason.

At the risk of someone calling me an a-hole or worse, I have to say I agree with mdoneil on this one--I think there are some posts on here that make us look immature and socially dysfunctional. I just don't see the need to use language like that to prove a point to your colleagues.

Isn't swearing supposed to be offensive? Isn't that the point? I don't swear myself unless extremely provoked, and never at people.
So I am offended by swearing when I read it. If I find it gets to the point that it obscures the message, I'll stop reading. And assuming that the writer wants to be read, then they are losing out. Unless of course they don't want to be read by "prissy" people anyway. Which I don't consider myself, personally, btw.

Depends, to many people in many areas and of course very importantly, different parts of the world (as we are not all from the US) they mean different things. We've grown up with them and they can be used as a word for all seasons. One person might use 'damn', one might use 'Jesus' and just as easily someone else could use any of the, for some people, more offensive 4 letter words. That could cover everything from hitting your self with a hammer, being surprised with a nice present for your birthday or in the middle of a passionate encounter with your loved one. We're all different.

One thing I always found funny was the difference in meanings of words across countries and cultural divides. The word fanny being the best example. Middle of a sitcom or The Simpsons and someones talking about their sore fanny. Has a totally different meaning here in the UK.

Many people these days try to learn a second language, whether it's to feel more worldly, better themselves, or becuase it means a bonus at work. Schools beg students to learn a second language and we expect our leaders, and our soldiers, to learn at least one more language. Even if it's just the language of the people we are at war with.

So, why are some the most base, vile words (in any language) the first ones that people think of to describe something they dislike or even something they don't want to think about?

That's my problem; of all the descriptive words we could use--why choose the most juvenile? I can't believe that it adds entertainment value to books, movies, tv, etc. I know when I hear it, I tune it out. I don't think it really even tells anyone how you feel.

Those words are not even GOOD descriptors.