MetaPhile: We can swear if we want to

joeclark's picture

I don’t want Mormons or Islamic fundamentalists or born-again Christians running Typophile. I also don’t want squeamish, schoolmarmy atheists running it. As it stands now I can’t tell which of those groups is in charge, because the result is the same: You can’t really swear on this site.

In particular, not only can you not write the word “fuck” or any derivative, you can’t even post a link that includes those four characters in its URL (even if you’re using an actual A element rather than being dumb as a mule and pasting in an URL like it was plain text). You have to obfuscate the link.

It’s OK if you’re offended by the word “fuck.” I’m offended by Arial, but I don’t try to ban its usage, which is what the self-proclaimed “moderators” of this site are doing. And they’ve gone to elaborate lengths to set up a system that automatically censors your words without human intervention. (Yes, Americans, it’s still censorship even if the government isn’t the one doing it.)

Typophile has a whole list of banned topics, implicitly including all the topics I am posting under the MetaPhile rubric but explicitly including any topic explicable with the word “fuck.”

It’s simple: The most uptight and censorious members of Typophile, even if, for some reason, they have the keys to the house, should not get their way. If this is a discussion forum, I expect to be able to discuss things, and in particular I expect to be able to express indisputable facts (like the full and accurate text of a link) without interference.

Lex Kominek's picture

Your post includes "****" three times. I don't get it.

- Lex

cuttlefish's picture

I can see both sides of this. While we are presumably all adults who will not be "harmed" by casual cursing, some of us may access the site at workplaces that employ internet content filtering that puts parental controls for children to shame, and their access to the site may be denied if some filter provider deems this site "tasteless" or whatever nefarious designation.

But the filter used here is not particularly clever, as evidenced above.

Lex Kominek's picture

Maybe having an option to turn the filter off, similar to Google's "SafeSearch" feature would be nice.

- Lex

Stephen Coles's picture

The ability to swear is a nice freedom, yes, but it's not a requirement for a useful and interesting typography forum. Ironically, it appears the auto-censor is turned off for the first post in a thread as evidenced here.

Mark Simonson's picture

He's using a workaround--typing HTML entities for the characters.

I don't understand why swearing isn't allowed. I rarely do it myself, but it doesn't bother me when others do it. I don't think filtering it out is worth messing up links.

DrDoc's picture

I hesitate to make this post lest I reveal my other internet affiliations, but SomethingAwful has a filter that is turned off when a user is logged in, but if someone is just lurking, swear words are replaced by much less offensive phrases. The f-word is replaced by "gently caress," as in, "What the gently caress are you rambling on about?" or "Gently caress you." Its gerund form is replaced by "loving," as in, "you're such a loving idiot."

I'm not suggesting that Typophile do anything like this, given that this is not a comedy forum, but there could be a filter that is only activated when a user is not logged in, and a user could turn the filter on or off, as Lex suggested.

Alternatively, we could replace words with "Arial" or "Comic Sans," as in, "What the Arial are you rambling on about" or "Comic Sans you."

Theunis de Jong's picture

Filtering message does have the advantage on that the occasional flamer has to carefully choose his (her!) words, which in my opinion makes for much more amusing reading.

Initiating a meta-forum just to complain on the features and handling of an existing forum might create an infinite loop, as that forum in turn may lead to complaints, resulting in a request for a meta-meta-forum. Perhaps Joe should install a filter on his own computer that discerns between typophilic and acidophilic posts, and directs the latter to a more suitable website. Or silently to his thrash can, so he can still feel good on sending, but no-one ever have to read 'em.

.00's picture

I can't **** tell you how **** bored I am with this whole **** thread and **** site. **** it.

russellm's picture

All due respect, Joe, as you know, but who cares?

in a (hopefully) polite conversation about type, where does the need to use Anglo-Saxonisms arise?

John Hudson's picture

I understand censorship to be the suppression of ideas, not necessarily the language in which ideas are suppressed. With this view, of course, comes the recognition that some ideas require particular language, but so far as I know it is general possible to talk about typography without profanity. [That said, I'm glad that my recent OED reference to the dog's bollocks was not censored.]

If Typophile were a communally created and operated site, then I'd say that the members should determine what standard of language usage is desired. Typophile is a private concern, and I view my participation here as something like my attendance at someone else's house party. If my host doesn't want swearing, I will generally respect that wish. Of course, I'm able to look at it in such terms because I know various ways to circumvent the nanny when occasion demands.

‘Circumvent the nanny’ is my new euphemism for fuсking.

Sindre's picture

Not only swear words are filtered out. I once had use for the word "orgaſm" in a post, which in my (European) opinion cannot be considered offensive by any stretch of imagination. Typophile's word filter thinks otherwise (unless I outsmart it).

bowerbird's picture





kentlew's picture

> ‘Circumvent the nanny’ is my new euphemism for fuсking.

John, I haven’t laughed so hard in quite a while. Brilliant!

Don McCahill's picture

> I don’t want Mormons or Islamic fundamentalists or born-again Christians running Typophile.

No problem Joe, we'll have them all shot. Let's hope that someone else doesn't want Canucks visiting the site either, or we will really be in trouble.

pers0n's picture

It's probably for spam filtering or something. Seeing how most of their posts would use that word.

joeclark's picture

Spam filtering is demonstrably nonexistent, sZEROmeZEROne. We get spam every week, do we not? (And how come I’m the first one to spot it?)

John, I love how you’ve dusted off that old we’re-all-guests-here argument, but it doesn’t hold water. This isn’t Typophile administrators’ little playground. I would refer you to mathowie’s years of hard-lived experience running MetaFilter. Running the place like a fiefdom with hard-and-fast rules – the logical outcome of your position – harms the forum. At any rate, banning individual words, even words you personally believe we, i.e., other people, don’t need to use, is surely the pettiest manifestation of the I-own-this-place-and-I-set-the-rules ethos, is it not?

_Palatine_'s picture


What happened to prompt all these posts from you?

G T's picture

Is it some sort of competition Joe to see if you can get a thread you started onto all top 10 of the hottest threads on the homepage?

Ray Larabie's picture

I'm a big fan of swearing. I don't swear very much but I do really appreciate fine swearing. Bring it on.

scottsullivan's picture

as a Mormon - Islamic fundamentalist - born-again Christian - atheist I'd like to say that in most cases you just don't need to use bad words! We're all adults talking about typo.. and sure there are certain things that make me mad and want to say bad words (like MetaPhile being the first word on most of the topics on the 'hottest' list on the lovely home page) but I don't need to say bad words to express myself because I'm no longer in the 6th grade.

hrant's picture

There is one good reason to allow swearing:
to separate the men from the boys in terms
of communicative control. Swearing is weak.


francis bold's picture

f u c k

Quincunx's picture

Filtering out words is completely retarded. If you can't handle a bit of profane language here and there, then clearly the internet is not a place for you.

Ray Larabie's picture

Hrant, boys don't have the swearing skills men have. Proper swearing really does separate the men from the boys but the other way around. Swearing can be powerful and beautiful. Knowing when to use horseshit instead of bullshit . . . kids don't know. Have you ever heard a kid deliver "**** son of a bitch" properly? They can't do it. When said properly it's a breathtaking tom, tom, bass, hihat, cymbal crash. You try when you're a kid but it just doesn't sound right. When you're 20 and your voice is a bit lower, you can deliver a good "bastard" with the proper oomph it deserves. It takes years do do it properly. To swap an expected swear with a more obscure one at the right moment is a fine craft. When I was a kid, I could hear old men swearing in such an manly way, especially Quebeckers. I loved how they threw in a little English "**** you" right in the middle of a sentence. It's said so quickly and casually; you wouldn't ever put a comma before it. Sublime.

Forbidding specific English words is far more childish than using them.

Spire's picture

I'm not a fan of content filtering, but if you're going to do it, the best way is to implement it as a user preference -- and if desired, enable it by default for guests and new accounts. Don't filter content as it's submitted; instead, filter it as it's sent to each person's Web browser, if that person has requested filtering. The pages that Typophile serves are dynamically generated anyway; adding a filter should have a negligible impact on performance.

hrant's picture

Ray, I hear ya. I grew up in Lebanon, and Arabic is held up by many as by far the most glorious language to swear in - not just because of its repertoire of oldschool insults, but also because of its incredible acoustic range. I've experienced the same sort of high as you when witnessing masterful cursing; it can bring on a smile or even a loud chuckle, sometimes even if you're the target!

But I rarely feel inclined to engage in it myself, especially not in a place like this. Reacting explosively to almost getting run over by a car is one thing, telling somebody off about his lack of respect for readability is another! Words, even the simplest ones, have so much subtle, nebulous power within them - I simply enjoy leveraging that too much to fall for the sledgehammer that is swearing. BTW, this might be running parallel to my preference for text fonts over display.

That said, I rarely mind other people swearing. Except when I feel sorry for a person becasue a valid point he's trying to make is masked by offensive-for-its-sake language; or when an impressionable person is present, and he leaves as a result. Quite often, not swearing is simply a wise compromise for the greater good.


SuperUltraFabulous's picture

I don’t want Mormons or Islamic fundamentalists or born-again Christians running Typophile. I also don’t want squeamish, schoolmarmy atheists running it.

I’m with you Joe. The f-word isn’t the only f-word we need to be concerned with. Freedom. As in Freedom of Speech. Being able to freely express myself the way I want, when I want is very important to me.

You’re right about those Morons and god-damm Islams funda-whats-its on typophile. Now that you got me thinking Joe I never liked them and never will. Glad you brought it up.

But your forgetting two very important groups that totally piss me the off! Perhaps you too.

Gays and disabled people. Ohhh-weee.

I have to park a million miles out of the way and I can just FORGET about using a public bathroom these days.

You feel me Joe—my brotha in telling da truth!?

Another f-word: fagg0t.

Why can’t I say it here on typophile? Did you know since I’ve joined Typophile I have so much difficulty in not using that word, but since me and Joe might get a breakthrough on the word f.uck we might as we have access to all the offensive there are. I just don’t want to say f.uck to be chic in an intellectual way like Starbucks people.

If only on Typophile we could utter a sentence like this:
This rim-stretching muthafukin’ broke-ass windowlicking retarded meat-watching semen-guzzling parkin’-in-the-blue-space ear-biting slow as fukz faggy ass Adobe Flash is slowing my muthafukin computa down son!

Words can’t offend— their just sounds we make with our mouths.

Let’s say how we feel. Let’s say fuc.k freely. Let’s not limit ourselves. Let us say whatever we want to say when we want to.

Say it with me Joe,
Let freedom ring!

Mike Diaz

PS... I would like to change my name to SuperUltraFagulous :-)

hrant's picture

Freedom of speech is just another weapon against the people.


eliason's picture

To swap an expected swear with a more obscure one at the right moment is a fine craft.


William Berkson's picture

Just so no one thinks there is unity on this, here is a minority opinion:

In my lifetime, public language has become increasingly coarse and crass. This is not good, because it tears down the dignity of other human beings, who should be respected.

There is no reason that "**** you!" has to be spelled out in a public forum. Replacing that with asterisks is a tiny blow for respectful speech, and I am grateful for it.

Quincunx's picture

Just wondering, is there ever alot of swearing on Typophile at all? I've been on here for a few years now, and I don't think I ever saw real swearing in a thread, or at least not in a way that makes me remember it... in other words, is it actually a problem, or is content filtering a solution for a problem that isn't there?

hrant's picture

1) If there is filtering, how would you see much swearing anyway?
2) If there isn't much swearing, how much could filtering hurt?


Quincunx's picture

Yeah! There isn't much swearing at all! Lets filter it!!!11

Bendy's picture

Well if words can't offend they at least demonstrate narrow-minded bigotry and needless aggression, if Mike's surreal diatribe against gay and disabled people is anything to go on. Way to go, Mike.

Stephen Coles's picture

Mike's "diatribe" may be too subtle. He is a gay man showing some empathy for the other groups who were needlessly attacked by Joe Clark.

hrant's picture

Joe reminds me of this unforgettable cartoon I saw in my college newspaper ages ago: It was a recruitment drive on campus, and the gay booth people were bashing the booth next to them, the necrophiliacs.


William Berkson's picture

FWIW, I suspect that the filtering discourages swearing, as it takes away the insulting sting, which I think is what the foul-mouthed are looking for.

GrahamD's picture

Jelmar asked: "Just wondering, is there ever a lot of swearing on Typophile at all?"

Joe seems to be the leading advocate and practitioner of swearing on Typophile. His outbursts frequently lead to more swearing from otherwise mild-mannered folks who are exasperated beyond the point of no return. In other words, people on this forum who never otherwise swear in their posts... swear at Joe.

Bendy's picture

>Mike's "diatribe" may be too subtle. He is a gay man showing some empathy for the other groups who were needlessly attacked by Joe Clark.

I suspected as much, but even so I had to pull him up on it. Call me sensitive ;)

SuperUltraFabulous's picture

Hello Guys et Gals:

Man has be marginalizing man since the beginning of time, and even in these (supposedly) educated times the practice is still just as common. The heart doesn’t engage the brain anymore. Intolerance and lack love for your fellow man (no matter what he is) will make its way into another susceptible heart.

Bendy, you rightly should find my words offensive much the same way I find Joe Clark’s intolerant comments towards Mormons, Muslims, Born Again Christians, and even Atheists outrageous.

I (we) don’t know if Joe harbors any true hatred for the aforementioned groups—perhaps a literacy device (or stunt)—a punch in the gut to the reader to draw him into the censorship portion of his Metaphile manifesto. I dunno.

I think Joe was trying to be provocative when he really was being reckless, spewing evil vitriolic dross—much in same way people say the f-word to show “they really mean it” or racial epithets when they run out of the more intellectual put-downs.

In any case I find it hypocritical (and ironic) for Joe (especially) to make ANY marginalizing comments about ANY group when he is member of two oft-sidelined groups ever in history of human beings: gays and the disabled. (There are Born Again Christians who cuss up a storm and there are gay Muslims who find cursing repugnant... I bet that wasn’t apart of your equation Joe.)

I think fear is at the heart of the issue.

Joe, do really feel Typophile is taking something important from you? What are these “list of banned topics” involving the f-word? Are these topics particular to disability or homosexuality? Are they relevant to a website revolving around the typographic arts?

Joe, if you got your way and Typophile was truly no holds barred, do you expect me or anyone else to keep the level discourse and the level of nastiness only to a bar you set and that everyone else except you be stung? Perhaps I was being veiled. In your truly meaningless conversation here in the ether are you willing to discriminate against Mormons, Muslims, Born Again Christians, Atheists or anyone else and yet not be held to the that same standard? If my “diatribe” was too “surreal” for you Joe then I’ll make it clear—I don’t do anything piecemeal. What you dish out, you will get dished back. Some will do it worse than I.

Why are you fighting for freedom on Typophile for yourself when you want to marginalize students to their own zone YET you don’t want Zara to put your topics in a special folder?
Why do you say f.ucktard when this word is portmanteau of f.uck and retard—do you not champion the mentally retarded?

I want you to think about ways you can feel strongly about something and fight vigorously for it, and bring it to success, yet in a way that doesn’t require the discrimination or disrespect of someone else. This doesn’t mean you have to dilute your being. You don’t have to appreciate an ideal, nor respect it, you can even hate it, but you do have to tolerate the person believing it .

(That is a concept so many people failed to understand after 9/11.
Osama=terroist=middle easterner=all middle easterners are terrorists=let’s light up that mosque)

Mike Diaz

PS... Coles, I don’t ever recall saying I was gay on Typophile-never had sex with a man. SuperUltraPuzzlingFrequentUseOfTheWordFabulous?

bowerbird's picture

i have a friend who once told me that
his band would never release an album
without a "parental advisory" sticker on it,
because no self-respecting kid would buy it...

he was also amused when radio bleeped words.

ergo, i vote for the ****' filter...


p.s. people who use words to try to hurt other people
are boring and unimaginative, and not very effective either.

cuttlefish's picture

What is a bit of an issue is exactly what words are being censored. I've had a few unexpected and rather mild utterances come up as a string of asterisks. I would assume the big seven dirty words you can't say on TV are on the list.
The words are:

  • Shit
  • Piss
  • ****
  • ****
  • ****
  • ****
  • Tits

But I've had "ass", the alternative word for donkey, starred out in the past, while "arse" passed through undetected.
As mentioned above the big O-word for the sexual response "****" gets blocked too, though there is nothing rude about that at all.

What is being hit and missed exactly?

Chris Dean's picture

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