Thursday, June 02, 2005

This Blog Is an Asterisk-Free Zone

It may have been going on in the blogosphere for some time, but it's only in the past few months that I've been noticing the practice of using asterisks in four-letter words, instead of spelling the word out. You know, instead of writing "shit," you write "sh*t." Or "sh**." Or "sh***," or "s***."

To which I say, bullshit!

I never noticed this in the blogosphere until just a few months ago. But since then, I've been noticing it on blogs all over the place. Which set me to wondering, is this some new trendy blogospheric fad, or something? Or am I just dense?

I must confess, I have a long-standing dislike of the "asterization" of four-letter words. If you're going to use the word, then spell it out, and if you can't bring yourself to spell it out, then don't use it. But please, can the asterisks! Either spell the word out in full, or don't use it at all!

I tend to go light on such vocabulary here on my blog, simply because people I'm already acquainted with out here in meatspace have a way of finding this blog, and their ideas of propriety are sometimes not mine. Still, even if I did (or occasionally do) use such language on this blog, it's not as if I'd be using any words that people around here haven't already heard me use face to face. It's just that writing persists, and writing can be accessed outside of any personal context. The joke I told at the last Lions meeting may come across quite differently if someone down the road from me stumbles across it in my blog by dint of Google.

Nonetheless, I've always gotten fairly peeved (or, if you will, "pissed off") at people who act like nervous nellies in the presence of plain, honest Anglo-Saxon. It smacks of bowdlerism, of Mr. Comstock and Mrs. Grundy. My thought is, I may be a conservative, but I'm sure as hell not that kind of a conservative! Twenty years ago, most conservative magazines were in the practice of spelling out four-letter words. I remember back in the fall of 1984, National Review ran a two-page article on the history of the F-word, with not an asterisk nor a euphemism in sight. Sad to say, that would never happen today: some time within the past ten or fifteen years, the asterisk crept into the pages of NR. (It seems to me perhaps the Weekly Standard set the trend on this one.) I can't guarantee you, off the top of my head, that even Commentary is asterisk-free these days.

And now, in recent months, I've been noticing those asterisks all over the place in blogs. Me, I think it's just plain silly. Not that I'm trying to tell anyone else how to run their own blog. But as for me, I hereby officially declare that Let the Finder Beware is an asterisk-free zone.


Blogger Nathan said...

What if you don't wish to use language, but circumstances conspire to make it necessary to quote someone who used such language?
What if you don't want such language on your blog, but someone leaves a comment using profanity? I know I don't want to edit out their idiocy, but don't wish to leave profanity.
Or what if you don't want to become the number one search on Google for certain porn terms?
What to do?

Simple: use asterisks, or other alteration of the word. My blog will not remain asterisk free.

Thursday, June 02, 2005 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger Caltechgirl said...

I do it for the last reason nathan mentioned. I swear worse offline....

Thursday, June 02, 2005 12:10:00 PM  
Blogger Paul Burgess said...

Gee, I should think that no matter what colorful terminology I used here in my blog, I'd be heavily outranked in Google by Acidman and many others! ;)

As for becoming #1 in pr0n searches on Google, I've found it's hard to avoid that, even if you try. For you Harry Potter fans out there, I find I still get a visitor or two per week from a search on Snape mpreg ("mpreg" = "male pregnancy")... And heaven help any of us who happen to post a piece which contains both the terms "Britney" and "Pinocchio nose"— yes, check it out if you dare, evidently photoshopped pictures of Britney Spears with a Pinocchio nose really turn somebody's crank.

(And now watch all the visitors pile in to my blog from Google searches on britney pinocchio nose...)

Actually, when it comes to what I will or won't post, the yardstick I've been using is not where it's apt to land me in Google, but rather where it's apt to land me with my neighbors down the road: according to my stats, I get several visitors per week who are using the same local small-town ISP as I am, which means doubtless somebody who knows me in everyday life.

BTW, Nathan, welcome, and thanks for your comment! I guess you'd use asterisks before you'd avoid a topic. Whereas I'm the opposite, I'd avoid a topic before I'd use asterisks. That is, given a topic or passage which included four-letter words, I'd make an umpire-like judgment call whether to use it or not; but if I did use it, I'd use it straight up— either that, or else I wouldn't touch on the topic or passage at all. Two different ways to run two different blogs.

Thursday, June 02, 2005 6:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I amused to see nathan commenting on this topic, given that his name is occasionally used as a name for the punctuation mark in question. The one place I ever saw this done was in the IEEE specifications for the STE bus architecture. This practice of course honors Nathan Hale, who had but one * for his country.

Thursday, June 02, 2005 11:47:00 PM  
Blogger Nathan said...

Exactly. I'd never thought of it that way, but I would rather use the asterisk than avoid the topic.

In any case, when I re-read my comment, I sound much more disapproving than I really am, and I'm sorry about that. I just wanted to point out the reasons why I have a different policy.

I don't use profanity very often in real life, so I certainly don't want it on my blog...but I still believe people have the right to express themselves, so that led to the development of my policy.

Triticale, I'd never heard of the use of * to replace my name. It's actually called a "Nathan"? Interesting.

Friday, June 03, 2005 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger Mr. E said...

Well, dude, I know that Caltechgirl does swear much worse offline (mostly at me, of course) and I do the same. I hate asterisks too, but sometimes they are needed if you want to get a point across and have to get through filters either at work or elsewhere... I will not use an asterisk while commenting on this blog just to make you feel better, ok...

Monday, June 06, 2005 1:16:00 PM  

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