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October 23, 2009

Cool! A dictionary! I'm gonna look up blowjob.

Jesse Lansner

Regular readers of this blog are familiar with all the self-censorship that goes on in today's media. But it wasn't always thus. As Radosh.net Senior Lexicological Correspondent Jesse Sheidlower notes in a recent article for Slate, the New York Times – the Gray Lady herself, so fond these days of reminding us that it is a family newspaper – used to object to this kind of behavior:

In 1966, Jess Stein, the editor-in-chief of the major Random House Dictionary of the English Language, told the New York Times about a meeting he convened with the company's editorial and sales staff to discuss the words cunt and fuck. "When I uttered the words there was a shuffling of feet, and a wave of embarrassment went through the room," he said. "That convinced me the words did not belong in the dictionary, though I'm sure I'll be attacked as a prude for the decision."

Stein did not have to wait long to be proven right on the last point: A mere two weeks later, the Times' own book reviewer wrote, "Unfortunately, a stupid prudery has prevented the inclusion of probably the most widely-used word in the English language. The excuse here, no doubt, is 'good taste'; but in a dictionary of this scope and ambition the omission seems dumb and irresponsible."

Anyone care to spend $3.95 to see if the Times actually printed that "most widely-used word" in the original piece? Actually, don't. I'd rather hold onto the fantasy. Instead, read Sheidlower's article for some great info on the correct usage of terms like prong and irrumo, and then buy the updated edition of The F-Word. I haven't picked up the new one yet, but the original is one of the best books on language I've ever read (and, yes, I have read more than one).

(Disclaimer: Unlike this blog's originator/namesake, I've never actually met or corresponded with Jesse Sheidlower. I just appreciate a man dedicated enough to his job that he will track down the full usage history of phrases like "hotter than a fresh-fucked fox in a forest fire" and "you look like a monkey trying to fuck a football.")


You've got to love a paragraph like this:

"Thus, you can't fuck someone in the ass with a dildo, according to the current edition of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, the American Heritage Dictionary, and Webster's New World Dictionary. The whore in Portnoy's Complaint "who fucks the curtain with her bare twat" can't do that, according to American Heritage, Webster's New World, Random House, or Encarta. Lesbians can't fuck each other at all, according to Webster's New World and Encarta (though if they use a strap-on, Encarta becomes OK with it). Fucking a woman's breasts is only possible according to Merriam-Webster. Finger-fucking and fist-fucking are impossible according to Webster's New World, Random House, and American Heritage; Merriam allows it, but only if it's vaginal and not anal."

This is at least the second time you have alluded to the brilliant but somewhat obscure Kicking and Screaming (not the Will Ferrell thingy).
I like it.

They didn't print it. "Ain't" is as vulgar as the article gets.

Fuck, y'all.

My fave usages:

1. "Two Cunts in a Kitchen" -- advertising jargon for a commercial starring a pair of typical domestic females discussing the sponsor's product.

2. "Cunty (The Feeling)" -- 1990s song by club icon Kevin Aviance:

She's Cunt.
He's Cunt.
They're Cunt.
I'm Cunt.

Feeling Cunt, feeling -tee.
Feeling Cunt, feeling -tee.
Feeling Cunt, feeling -tee.
Feeling Cunt, feeling -tee.

Cuntee Cuntee Cuntee Cuntee
Cuntee Cuntee Cuntee Cuntee
Cuntee Cuntee Cuntee Cuntee

Cuntee Cuntee Cuntee Cuntee Cunt Cunt.
Cuntee Cuntee Cuntee Cuntee Cunt Cunt.
Cuntee Cuntee Cuntee Cuntee Cunt Cunt.

Feeling the mons.
Feeling the mons.


Crowd would go wild back in the day. A cultural phenomenon The Times was too Leviticus or whatever to cover.


I've been playing Scrabble quite a bit lately. It's odd that "fuck" and "cunt" are valid words in the online game, but they are not printed in the official Scrabble dictionary.

The official Scrabble dictionary purged all the words it deemed offensive in the most recent edition, which is why tournaments don't use it anymore. Is it the official Hasbro version that allows them?

Simon -- I almost didn't use the title for that very reason, but I figured no one would remember my old posts. Now I'll need to come up with another obscure/brilliant film to grab my titles from.

J.D. -- I think you need to start working on "The C-Word" as a companion to Sheidlower's book.

Francis: I play the official Hasbro version on Facebook. I just checked, and it uses the official Tournament World List (TWL) dictionary. So that explains it.

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