A Fine Line between profanity and ?''?

4
votes

I'm starting this discussion on my own (and NOT necessarily as an ambassador) because of problems occurring in some recent threads.

--A lot of questions on this site involve slang-y or misspelled writing (obviously, these are words people can't find in the dictionary.) Naturally, such communication inevitably includes profanity from time to time, to the complete ignorance of the person who posted the question.

--I once met a (Christian) missionary who told me he had asked a down-and-outer to spend several hours teaching him to swear (I think the language in question was Cantonese). Why? Because he wanted to cuss people out? Of course not!!! He wanted to know what phrases were offensive precisely so he could avoid them.

--I am the mother of a 9-month-old child. Obviously, he's not going to be getting on the site any time soon -- but when he is old enough, I would like for him to be able to participate without worrying about what he's going to read, or having him learn words that I have to teach him not to repeat.

I recognize the fact that the site owner / administrators have the right to make the forum rules, and we should follow them. However, I would like to know what everyone thinks. How can we reach our language-learning goal as a site that serious language learners enjoy, while maintaining a family-friendly atmostphere'

9423 views
updated MAY 7, 2010
posted by Natasha

39 Answers

5
votes

I have added my vote to Samdie's long post, because that is essentially what I believe and how I feel about the issue.

On the other hand, I have been known to act to suppress threads - and intend to continue to do so - that appear to make gratuitous use of foul, explicitly sexual or violent language, for two reasons.

  1. The Administrators of this site have stipulated some rules of use for this Forum, and have determined that its contents are to be kept within a "family rating". I accepted those rules when I registered to the Site, and I will do my best to at least give a warning to new users who ignore the rules, before things can escalate and require punitive action from the Administrators.
  2. I have stated elsewhere that I believe that language is power, and that while words themselves are neutral, it is the intention behind them that counts. I do not subscribe to violence in any form, and prefer to enjoy a Forum where people can exchange ideas in a respectful and civilized manner. Therefore I may feel inclined to answer honestly a question where someone asks: "My son came home from school today and he cheerfully told me that his friends taught him to say '$&%&*@ la 9#6@ m#÷¢“ que te ¢“#÷¢!!' - can someone please tell me what that means?"

On the other hand, I will most likely suppress and flag a post that says: "Hello you all #¬¢?¬-lovers, you all ¢¬$%& d(*^), and your mothers ‰?!$&%/¿" I don't think such attitude has any educational value at all.

 

Finally, there really are lots of sites dedicated to the study and refinement of "street" language, vulgarity and insults. If someone really needs to learn anything, they should go to the specialist site. This one, as far as I can understand,is specialized in "grammatically correct Spanish and English". The day that changes, please make sure to let me know, because then I will be happy to switch to a more comfortable, natural, and probably bewildering slang mode. grin

updated MAY 7, 2010
posted by Gekkosan
Gekkosan, I'm with you on this. I'll also be with you if you have to switch to another site. I don't think that will happen. But I think this site will remain "family friendly" as long as Heidita and the other administrators are in charge.
Oh, I don't intend to go anywhere, unless Queen Heidita Herself asks me to pack my bags! I just meant that I'm happy to comply with the rules and orientaton for this Forum. :-)
5
votes

This is one of those topics that usually "generate a lot more heat than light". As will become obvious, I fall somewhere near the extreme "liberal" end of the spectrum on this question. I always believed (and my experiences as a parent did nothing to change that belief) that you cannot teach a child anything that the child doesn't want to learn and, conversely, you cannot prevent a child from learning anything that the child does want to learn. I think that the only thing a parent can/should do is try to guide the learning process; to prevent the child from learning misinformation and to try and provide context for the child's learning.

Every parent at some point or another will be / has been embarrassed by a child saying something "totally inappropriate" in a public situation.
In such cases, the response should not be to tell the child "Don't say that.! That's dirty/bad!" A flat prohibition has several problems: 1) the child is not going to simply forget the word/expression (it's already been learned) 2) the child is being told only not to say that without any understanding of why it's inappropriate 3) in most such cases the child has overheard the word or learned it from other children and has only a vague notion of what it means and, as a result, is not clear about what/why it's being prohibited. This last point is the area of greatest danger for a child's education. If the child comes away learning that there are some things that should not be said/asked because Mommy/Daddy will get angry, the child may quite possibly be reluctant to ask about many things for fear of provoking similar displeasure. One of the great things about small children is their boundless curiosity. They start off asking about everything but, unfortunately, the result of modern education often seems to be that they mostly learn not to be curious about many things and to confine their curiosity to only a few narrowly defined channels.

Despite the "profanity" in the thread's title, I assume that the phrase "family friendly" is the usual euphemism for "Let's pretend that their is no such thing as sexual reproduction" (and not discuss it or anything related to it, no matter how indirectly nor what euphemisms/circumlocutions/technical terms are used). Reportedly, many people actually managed to do this in the Victorian era but it is my impression that one of the good things to come out of the Women's Liberation movement was the more widespread realization that girls (as well as boys) were better taught the "facts of life" well before their wedding night. Some people worry about small children. You can no more teach a six-year old the facts of human reproduction than you can about how a television works (I mean the electronics, not which button to push). At that age a child might ask "Where do babies come from'" but you can't teach them much more than "From Mommy's stomach." because if you go on to supply more details, they'll lose interest somewhere in the middle of the next sentence. Even at nine or ten boys mostly are interested/want to play with other boys and girls with girls. Of course, a few years later they'll hit puberty and the situation will be reversed; then the question becomes not "Will they learn'" but "From whom will they learn'". I never installed any of those "parental controls" on my daughter's computer because I think they're a waste of time/effort. As far as I can see, the only positive result that can come from such software would be if your child learns more about computers in an effort to circumvent the controls.

As a person interested in languages, I am as a matter of principle opposed to any form of censorship in the learning (or discussion) of a language. I certainly would hate to have missed out on Lazarus' "trillion flies" or "ano"/"año" examples because someone thought that they were too "vulgar". However, the language of the common people contains many "vulgarisms" (that is,

updated MAY 6, 2010
posted by samdie
3
votes

Ray said:

...But beware of trying to avoid the Elephant in the room and tripping over it...

I think that the Elephant has been acknowledged and dealt with directly.

It's very clear: this is a family-oriented website and no profanity will be allowed.

Just as you would refrain from using profanity in a job interview, at your grandparents house, in front of young children, etc., you can manage to avoid it on SpanishDict where it is not allowed.

This seems so simple to me.

updated MAY 6, 2010
posted by --Mariana--
I agree and once a step has been taken in the acceptance of "bad language" one cannot take a step back.
2
votes

I think is valid if someone asks a question about a slang or vulgar expression but I think that we, as native Spanish speakers, should not use it as part of an answer. If this forum is intended as a Spanish learning tool, it's not polite to use words we know a non native speaker will not understand. I've seen this also in the chat and I really don't like people using slang just to appear smarter (unless you explain the meaning of course).

updated DIC 25, 2010
posted by 00e657d4
2
votes

Difster said:

Having been on many forums with different levels of moderation involved, I have observed that participants will take full advantage of the situation when the rules are relaxed and the devolution begins quickly. When we have conversations with other adults around children, we self-moderate because we're aware that there are topics and/or words that most of don't want our children overhearing. Occasionally something slips through and that's fine. For example, if I'm at a restaurant with my daughter (she's 7) and there's a group of people having a conversation at the next table and an occasional swear word comes out, that's fine. When they've unleashed a string of profanities I say something to them.The same hold true for an on-line forum. You wouldn't want people using profanity gratuitously but if something shows up from time to time, that's fine. Likewise, various topics we wouldn't want our children to be reading about on this forum. I wouldn't want my daughter (who reads at a very high level for her age) reading a thread here about how to describe sexual exploits in Spanish. Yet the occasional mention of sex doesn't concern me.In short, keep the standards high because some people will always attempt to lower them. I appreciate the high standards of this site. Keep up the good work.

Thanks a lot, difster.

I truly believe that a non-moderated forum is no good at all. I have been to one and people were insulting each other all the time, apart from using the most outrageous language ever, slang, swear words, implicit sex offers....anything goes on a forum like that.

it is also my true believe, that if we start "relaxing" the standard and do allow threads like "Can you translate fu'' into Spanish" it will lead to this kind of thread:

[url=http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php't=616225&highlight=fuck]http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php't=616225&highlight=fuck[/url]

which I included before. It is a simple linguistic topic....nothing wrong with it really...but then, we must decide whether we want this kind of thread or this kind of language on the forum or not.

I think this is like quit smoking: either you quit or you don't . The method: from now on I will only smoke 5 a day....does not work. If we allow one of these threads...we will have a lot of them from then on. I think we don't get many as people see that this forum is "different". I know this might not be representative, but there are only on the word "fu''" 425 hits on WR.

I believe we do not want to take that road, do we?

I think one has to lead a forum into a certain direction. This one is family oriented, and no, samdie

You have to understand what is meant by "family-oriented". They don't care about slang. They're worried about SEX!.

not true. We do not allow chat talk, violence, personal attacks...and directly sex implied threads.

It is often a difficult choice, some people might say "no freedom of speech" but there are lots of forms, which do allow these threads, WR is only one of them. AND we will always supply an answer if needed. I have often done so by PM.

updated MAY 6, 2010
posted by 00494d19
2
votes

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but let's face it, the opinions of those who can only express themselves by using coarse or vulgar terms aren't really worth much at all. I appreciate the Internet is very impersonal, however vulgar phraseology lowers the tone for learning and hardly advances any conversation in whatever dialect.

updated MAY 6, 2010
posted by Mark-Baker
2
votes

Please keep the site clean and friendly. I believe that most of the people who come here want it to stay a clean site ,without vulgar and dirty expressions...which can offend.

Gracias!!

updated MAY 6, 2010
posted by Cooly-High
1
vote

Would there be any sense in knowing one of these Specialty Sites regarding this topic to refer people to when they ask these questions similar to the example Gekkosan gave?

updated MAY 6, 2010
posted by nizhoni1
A great starting point is the Urban Dictionary: http://www.urbandictionary.com. Very complete, very well structured, a really excellent tool for the rsearch of slang and profanity.
1
vote

I have noticed this problem as well. Sometimes, I wonder why people post answers that they post or whatever because sometimes, they're very vulgar or have sexual inuendos etc. This is a family oriented site and some people just don't want to talk about that, see that or anything else.

updated MAY 6, 2010
posted by mamasita_s
1
vote

We are a diverse group of peoples from many different cultures who may have many idiomatic phrases and sayings which differ greatly , therefore we all need to allow a little understanding of our cultural differences . But i would not advocate an "open slather approach" , there must be checks and balances to be fair and equivocal. I think overall a good and intelligent job has been done . But beware of trying to avoid the Elephant in the room and tripping over it. I have been teaching 8 to 10 year old Children in a combined class ,one of my main lessons was on good morals,the Education department forbade us to use the word 'sex" but I had to teach a precept which said ,"no sexual misconduct " therefore i used every term possible to avoid that word , the children knew the precept well and would goad me and bait me to get me to say the forbidden word,the Elephant in the room . If the word had been allowed i am convinced that it would have been glossed over and forgotten . Great care must be taken lest we create our own Elephants.

updated MAY 6, 2010
posted by ray76
1
vote

bravo

samdie said:

This is one of those topics that usually "generate a lot more heat than light". As will become obvious, I fall somewhere near the extreme "liberal" end of the spectrum on this question. I always believed (and my experiences as a parent did nothing to change that belief) that you cannot teach a child anything that the child doesn't want to learn and, conversely, you cannot prevent a child from learning anything that the child does want to learn. I think that the only thing a parent can/should do is try to guide the learning process; to prevent the child from learning misinformation and to try and provide context for the child's learning.

Every parent at some point or another will be / has been embarrassed by a child saying something "totally inappropriate" in a public situation.

In such cases, the response should not be to tell the child "Don't say that.! That's dirty/bad!" A flat prohibition has several problems: 1) the child is not going to simply forget the word/expression (it's already been learned) 2) the child is being told only not to say that without any understanding of why it's inappropriate 3) in most such cases the child has overheard the word or learned it from other children and has only a vague notion of what it means and, as a result, is not clear about what/why it's being prohibited. This last point is the area of greatest danger for a child's education. If the child comes away learning that there are some things that should not be said/asked because Mommy/Daddy will get angry, the child may quite possibly be reluctant to ask about many things for fear of provoking similar displeasure. One of the great things about small children is their boundless curiosity. They start off asking about everything but, unfortunately, the result of modern education often seems to be that they mostly learn not to be curious about many things and to confine their curiosity to only a few narrowly defined channels.

Despite the "profanity" in the thread's title, I assume that the phrase "family friendly" is the usual euphemism for "Let's pretend that their is no such thing as sexual reproduction" (and not discuss it or anything related to it, no matter how indirectly nor what euphemisms/circumlocutions/technical terms are used). Reportedly, many people actually managed to do this in the Victorian era but it is my impression that one of the good things to come out of the Women's Liberation movement was the more widespread realization that girls (as well as boys) were better taught the "facts of life" well before their wedding night. Some people worry about small children. You can no more teach a six-year old the facts of human reproduction than you can about how a television works (I mean the electronics, not which button to push). At that age a child might ask "Where do babies come from'" but you can't teach them much more than "From Mommy's stomach." because if you go on to supply more details, they'll lose interest somewhere in the middle of the next sentence. Even at nine or ten boys mostly are interested/want to play with other boys and girls with girls. Of course, a few years later they'll hit puberty and the situation will be reversed; then the question becomes not "Will they learn'" but "From whom will they learn'". I never installed any of those "parental controls" on my daughter's computer because I think they're a waste of time/effort. As far as I can see, the only positive result that can come from such software would be if your child learns more about computers in an effort to circumvent the controls.

As a person interested in languages, I am as a matter of principle opposed to any form of censorship in the learning (or discussion) of a language. I certainly would hate to have missed out on Lazarus' "trillion flies" or "ano"/"año" examples because someone thought that they were too "vulgar". However, the language of the common people contains many "vulgarisms" (that is,

>

updated MAY 6, 2010
posted by Jerry
Hey Jerry, you know that if you just have a short comment regarding someone's post, you can just write it underneath by clicking the "Add Comment" link, right? Like I just did here. :-)
1
vote

This is a very nice thread, Natasha, and I wish everybody participated.

I actually deleted my thread about which I thought was a funny expression as it had different in my opinion, on this forum, not permitted vulgar interpretations.

On some forums, all kind of vulgar expressions and discussions about them are allowed. We seem sort of "prudish" on this forum. but we really would like to keep this site family directed and keep in mind that we have very young people here, even so young as 12 year old children.

I don't know if we are doing well not to allow these kind of discussions, we would really appreciate input form all our foreres.

Thanks a lot !

updated MAY 6, 2010
posted by 00494d19
1
vote

I think the swearing subject is a little out of proportion. I really don't care if people swear. How else am I going to learn? I mean sure we don't want to go insane with swearing but I want to have slang and swearing here. How else am I going to know what the hell a spanish speaking person is saying? I mean sure I'll know what the adults are saying, but what about teens? WIll I know what there talking about?

We've just got to watch it with slang and swearing. Theres a point which separates from learning, to just being a pest. gotta, wanna, and maybe you can think of some other examples of slang. Those are words people wanting to learn english should know. But we don't want to lose them in conversations. So maybe if we say gotta we should put ( ) around the word like:

Gotta (got a) Wanna (want to)

Something like that. We've all just got to draw the line between learning and overdoing it.

Also to the one who started this subject. About you not wanting your kid to learn swear words. He's going to learn it. No matter what, he WILL learn those words. So better teach them to him now, then wait for him to learn it (of course now doesn't mean NOW since he's 9 months lol') But eventually he will learn things that you never wanted him to learn in the first place. If I was a parent I would rather have my kid learn it from me then from someone else.

'lol = Lots of Laughing or Laugh out Loud

updated OCT 27, 2009
posted by Gavin
0
votes

That's cool Heidi - I hope people who read any posts I contribute know by now that I don't generally use profanities or attempt to influence others to adopt my point of view; I just wished to test the water on what I thought could be useful to those of us who will, inevitably, hear all sorts of language out in the real world.

smile

Edited, I was out and about and unable to do this earlier... Realising after I posted the original that anything that I personally (note Ira's comments which are so valid) rate with a very high score is going to be flagged and removed, I don't feel it would work here anyway. I certainly wouldn't go further than I did in the post that sparked this off, and frankly, I wouldn't go that far even again.

updated MAY 7, 2010
edited by galsally
posted by galsally
I like your idea of a "shock rating" Sally. The only problem is that, except for at the extreme ends of the spectrum what will be considered offensive to some may be percieved as harmless to others. For example, you would probably draw little heat...
...over an expression like "pink bunny slippers," however, a word such as "piss" (as you have suggested) would likely draw a much more varied reaction. The question is, seeing as how each person's reaction is subjective and varies from person to person,
who would decide the rating. What one person considers a "2" might be a "10" from another person's point of view....
I suppose that on "potentially objectionable" words it might be helpful if native speakers were to rate such phrases based on a number system, but on the other hand, given that the sample size would be extemely small, you would still likely be left with..
no clear idea of how objectionable the phrase really is to use in "polite company" other than what you might have gathered from the opinions of just a handful of people
Izan, cmon, you could have written that in a post much clearer, jeje, !!!!
sorry...I got carried away
Yes I completely get what you're saying Ira - I'm scared I've opened a can of worms! I hope not.
0
votes

Though I agree with most posts I have to disagree with "they're very vulgar or have sexual innuendos etc." Please avoid associating vulgarity and sexuality in the same sentence. America still is so prudish and puritan, it is scary. No we don't have to expose our private life here in Spanish, no pornography should not be in the open and no it is not acceptable to openly offer sexual encounters on this site but yes sexuality is part of life, it's natural and there is no valid reason, other than religious taboo, to be scared of it in a conversation (if conducted properly). Most of Europe has moved on on this matter, Arabic countries are still in the backwoods and U.S. is somewhere in he middle

updated MAY 6, 2010
posted by sfrenchie
It is not a question of being it a part of life or not or being acceptable or no, it is N O T on this site, as i said, this is forum policy, so ....
and frenchie, please be more moderate in your posts, this might look offensive to some
I agree with the principle of what you say, Sfrenchie, but you may have misread Mamasita's comment. *some* posts are vulgar, and some have inappropriate innuendo. Does have no place in this Forum.
I think there are appropriate, non-offensive ways to approach legitimate issues related to sexuality, even in this Forum, without being vulgar or offensive.
I also agree that while while eveyone here is entitled to an opinion, it may be best to avoid sweeping generalizations about countries and cultures. I can state that I have met as many progressive people from the Middle East as US /Europe Neanderthals.