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HE USTA SAY “#&*@!!”

DEAR CHILDREN, there was a time, not all that long ago, when we could shield you from the vulgarities of life. Soon enough, lamentably, you’d hear older kids speaking “potty-mouth.” Or adults in “locker-room talk.”

Now, alas, we have a president whose taped braggadocio suggests new groping techniques. His in-and-out [Ed: Please reword] communications director, in less than a week on the job, had his “colorful language” insult the meaning of “talking New York.”

My image of New York is of erudite writers at The Atlantic, National Review, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. I also think of kind people there suggesting where to get the best pastrami or which station to get off the subway for the Strand Bookstore.

The media are a’buzz with how best to handle vulgarities. As one example, “Scaramucci’s Vulgar Rant Spurs Newsroom Debate: Asterisks or No Asterisks?” is by Sydney Ember, in The New York Times, July 28, 2017.

Notes Ember, “Some news organizations avoided Mr. Scaramucci’s vulgar rant entirely. The Los Angeles Times, for instance, wrote a front-page story devoid of any of Mr. Scaramucci’s most indecent words. But many other news organizations deemed his rant newsworthy, obscenities and all. After all, this was the White House communications director. And this was how he had chosen to communicate.”

After what Ember calls “lengthy, raucous discussion about which obscenities to include, and how many,” The New York Times published the Mooch’s rants verbatim. Editors felt it newsworthy that “a top Trump aide used such language.” However, Ember notes, “One Times policy has remained intact: after publishing vulgar language and obscenities in an article, the paper rarely repeats them in subsequent ones.”

National Review took something of a philosophical view in Kyle Smith’s “When the New York Times Decides to Spell Out Profanity.” The article’s subhead: “We may be forced to observe the mud-wrestling match, but no one is forced to participate in it.”

Smith writes, “There is little precedent for a swear word used by Scaramucci ever to appear in the New York Times. Nor is there much, if any, precedent for directly quoting the kind of language Scaramucci used when he described an anatomically improbable act.”

“Quoting Scaramucci accurately,” Smith says, “is a way to make the Trump administration look bad, and making the Trump administration look bad is the Times’ primary purpose these days.”

On the other hand, Smith continues, “Trump could at any point since (or even before) the election have started acting like a measured professional and surrounded himself with other measured professionals. He won’t do this because there is nothing measured or professional about him. He couldn’t fake it if he tried, not for longer than it takes to get through a single speech, and most of the time he isn’t even trying.”

Smith’s piece concludes with, “Maybe you think anything goes if you’re Donald Trump or one of his toadies. There is no reason the rest of [us] should stoop to their level.”

You may recall that SimanaitisSays has already taken a stand on this back in August 2016 in ” ‘#&*%@!!’ He Said.” Briefly, it matters just who says what, as exemplified by our pal Innes Ireland quoting the famous Jackie Stewart that “it had been pissing rain.” We didn’t say it; Innes wouldn’t have written it, except he was quoting Jackie.

I conclude with another example: Wife Dottie and I were in a local supermarket check-out some 30 years ago. Two young people in our line spoke as follows:

“You can’t light up that cigarette in here.” he said.

“And why not?” she responded belligerently.

“Because we’re in a grocery store.

“Well, you know what I say to that? YOU KNOW WHAT I SAY TO THAT?”

We all braced for the worst.

“I say, ‘BALONEY!’ ”

Dear children, those were much gentler days. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2017

3 comments on “HE USTA SAY “#&*@!!”

  1. Michael Rubin
    August 1, 2017

    At one time it was impossible to even suggest the “F” bomb, even just like that. It was simply referred to a a vulgarity. “Hell” and “damn” were also to be avoided, lest (at least at AP) we offend the readers of what publishers called “family newspapers.” We would occasionally, very occasionally, include something alluded to but not without a warning to editors to “Note language in paragraph four…” Ditto photo captions with warnings. A good friend was a newspaper correspondent in Santa Fe, the New Mexico State capitol, where the Watergate figure John Ehrlichman tried to live in privacy. Whenever someone tried to photograph the former Nixon aide, he quickly raised a middle finger, assuming no newspaper or news agency would publish it. He was right, then.

  2. Frank Barrett
    August 2, 2017

    Surely such major national publications have established style sheets that, among other conventions, govern vulgarities. The New York Times used to publish a newsletter (Hits & Misses?) covering its use of the English language, etc. I’ll dig around and try to find a copy for you, Dennis.

    • simanaitissays
      August 2, 2017

      Frank, I understand all have such style sheets. But as described in the NYT itself, they purposely modified their usual standards in this particular case.

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