Bad Words

Dan Savage on the juvenile refusal of naughty words among mainstream publications (“Don’t Be Such a Fucking Pansy, David,” SLOG, 6 August 2007):

Oh, David. Newspapers are for adults. Blogs are for adults. And adults use words like “fuck” all the time. Certainly newspaper writers and editors do — at weeklies and dailies. Even the President and Vice President use profanity, as the Second Circuit Court of Appeals recently noted. So why are daily newspapers written and edited as if their readers are a bunch of prissy ol’ clenchbutts?

I don’t think that your average paper should be written in the tone of The Stranger, but it’s more professional to report a quote as it was spoken than to refer to some hackneyed euphemism cribbed from one of your grandmothers old-time stories. If it includes a swear word, print the swear word.

Recently I went to see Robert Dallek talk on his book, Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power at Politics & Prose. Now Politics & Prose is what they call a family store: for their author talks a van from an area assisted living facility regularly disgorges a mob of gray-hairs. And Mr. Dallek isn’t a young scholar anymore. But to hear Mr. Dallek rattle off excerpts from the Nixon transcripts — forget Oliver Stone, the ones who should make a film about Nixon should be the Cohen brothers (need a clue? Try the The Big Lebowski: The Fucking Short Version). And if we made it through the actual Nixon administration we can make it through a few reanimated recitals of his vulgar ramblings.

As that brilliant, closing line from Apocalypse Now goes, “We train young men to drop fire on people, but their commanders won’t allow them to write ‘fuck’ on their airplanes because it’s obscene.”

Mr. Savage follows it up with a few more words on this issue: “Ruffians?,” and “Necessary Profanity.”