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A question with the following title appeared on the main site yesterday:

meaning of "giddy-up"

As innocent as that sounds, a quotation used in that question contains harsh language (namely the n-word). I flagged it for moderator review, but the flag is still pending. I also suggested an edit - where I replaced the word with "n*****" - which also has not been reviewed yet.

I think the use of the word is completely unnecessary to the understanding of the question. I get that the author is quoting, but it still seems to me in direct violation of our Code of Conduct, as we as a community (even despite having a CoC) should reflect inclusiveness and neutrality.

Even if the author of the question identifies as a person of colour, the use of the word seems inappropriate to me, as the SE platform is about information, not individuals and individual points of view, customs, or morals, and that information should be neutral and accessible by everyone.

What is the way to handle this, both from a user- and moderator perspective?


I realize there have been related questions here on Meta (see here), all of which don't really address a similar case.
A comment on one of the questions references the "quotation policy", but I can't seem to find it.


It's more than a week later, and still no one has given any proper response to this, even though the 'answer' that was written on the basis of a misunderstanding has been upvoted 5 times.
Now, returning to check for new comments, I see my question is in the process of being closed. For being opinion-based. Well, of course it is, that's why I asked it, and that's why a policy that addresses these matters needs to be present.

Of the seven moderators of English.SE, can at least one please properly respond to this?

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  • The n word is part of a quote from the cited text, is it? What’s wrong with it? – user 66974 Jun 2 at 18:51
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    @user66974 The use of the slur may not be helpful for understanding the meaning of the thing of primary interest. It -may- be helpful or it may not. Since this is a language understanding site, we lean towards allowing some things that are distasteful as long as they are quoted (ie not used), and the use of it in the quote is not motivated or gratuitous. So it is not an immediate 'close' or 'edit'. But you meta question here is an appropriate way to push up the activity around it. – Mitch Jun 2 at 22:33
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    @Mitch - the OP is suggesting that quoting the n word, which is part of the original text, is made with a malicious, discriminatory intent. I don’t think so. This site is becoming more and more a battlefield where personal sensitivity is taking the place of a rational discussion on the usage of words. A problem I’ve recently faced myself english.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/14992/… – user 66974 Jun 3 at 5:11
  • @user66974 I'm certainly not suggesting the author quoted with malicious intent, and I resent that interpretation. (Part of what) I am asking (is) if we really need to incorporate discriminatory language - in their original form - if it doesn't add to the understanding of the question. – Joachim Jun 3 at 6:41
  • @user66974 And while, yes, I do recognize personal sensitivity plays a role here, I don't see how I in your opinion am not trying to have a rational discussion about this. I try to remain neutral, nonjudgmental (despite the downvotes that indicate users here don't 'agree' - but with what?), and I have yet to see someone reference an existing policy. This is a serious matter - I am only raising awareness as I don't know much about the policy here - and I think this shouldn't be judged on a case-by-case basis, as it seems to be so now. – Joachim Jun 3 at 6:49
  • @Joachim - this is a site about the usage of the English language, that is about the usage of words, expressions, idioms, saying, etc. the fact that an expression is perceived as “offensive” by a number of users shouldn’t prevent the community from discussing about that expression and its usage, unless there is an evident disrespectful, discriminatory approach to it. If we apply censorship to every term every user perceives as inopportune or offensive, we may just close down the site. – user 66974 Jun 3 at 8:35
  • @user66974 That is not at all what I am suggesting. I thought about adding a disclaimer that I am not advocating censorship - I think everything should be able to be discussed and analyzed - but it seemed to evident at that moment for a site like this. I was mistaken, apparently. The point I'm making (ad nauseam) is that the slur is not being discussed in the question, hence I wonder if we can remove or censor that word. – Joachim Jun 3 at 9:43
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    @user66974 I don't think the OP is suggesting malicious intent (the OP said this). The issue is whether to censor all instances of taboo words or have the use vs mention distinction be the rule for action of censor vs anything goes. I'm saying that it's not so simple - some taboo things might be discussable as long as they are relevant (because we are not blind, we can all see the taboo item and are affected by it). Eg, "What's the difference between 'poop' and 'shit'?" - the taboo word is essential; "Is this a double negative: 'You ain't -not- a shithead.' ?" - the taboo word is gratuitous. – Mitch Jun 3 at 12:54
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This site has traditionally recognised the difference between using abusive / inflammatory language and asking / commenting about it.

Usage of such language is frowned upon, to put it lightly, but genuine questions and comments about such language has been accepted. If that were not so, your own Meta question would need to be censored to keep the policy consistent.

Where such language forms part of the question, the normal courtesy would be to keep question titles child-safe.

In the case of the question you’re asking about, it would appear that the title is innocuous and the inflammatory use of the term is a quotation that the poster is asking about. As such, EL&U norms would not normally require the question to be censored.

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  • But the point I made is that the question is not asking about/commenting on it: the word is used unnecessarily, and is not part of the question - the question would stand its ground without the slur. So, again: what is the policy here? Frown upon it, and move on? This is also not about a requirement, but about what is in the best interest of all users of the platform. (And what would need to be censored about my question? I'm euphemistically referring to inflammatory verbiage.) – Joachim Jun 2 at 18:42
  • I think the passage is interesting enough as a whole, with the slur, if one were trying to understand the use of the n-word. It does lend a particular color to understand the subtleties around 'giddy-up', but I think that including the n-word cold go either way. – Mitch Jun 2 at 22:36
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    @Joachim “Giddy up” is a common phrase associated with horse-riding, which the OP already knew about. If you take out the quote, there’s nothing left to the question. We might be talking at cross purposes here. Please explain what you think the question would be about if it excluded the term “giddy up” or the full quote. – Lawrence Jun 3 at 1:16
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    @Joachim Apologies, I see you’re objecting to the word “nigg*r”, not “giddy-up”. Even so, it provides important contextual information to the unusual use of “giddy-up”. Feel free to edit the original to change a vowel or two to asterisks as I did. In any case, the offensiveness is in the original, not in the OP’s communication. – Lawrence Jun 3 at 3:10
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    @Lawrence No worries! (Although most voters seem to have taken it the same way, which is a little demotivating.) That's an edit I proposed, as, once again, I mentioned in my question. And I also nowhere suggest the user who posed the question is at fault, I merely want to know how wording like that should be handled with. – Joachim Jun 3 at 6:56
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    I disagree that the context would be significantly diminished if the quote were presented as "All I know is that I’m pre-black. Dickens born and raised. Homo sapiens OG Crip from the goddamn primordial giddy-up..." The slur is more for understanding the character speaking the dialog than the meaning of "giddy-up" in context. – ColleenV Jun 4 at 13:17
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I agree with you that the quote in the question could be trimmed to remove the trailing "nigger"* and it would not significantly diminish the context with respect to the meaning of "giddy-up". We will part ways however on whether this is a violation of the Code of Conduct. This is an English language site, and we have to be able to academically discuss source material that contains offensive language if we want to "build a library of detailed answers to every question about English language and usage". The material was quoted, and while the word is unarguably offensive, in context I don't think it constitutes a violation of the CoC.

If you believe that the quote can be trimmed without damaging the question, why not ask the author to trim it? Most reasonable people are willing to accommodate others if they are asked. Suggesting an edit isn't the best way to ask; a comment would have been better. If you aren't comfortable asking the author to change it, flag it for a moderator and explain why you think the offensive bit is gratuitous. As you've already discovered, this site's community is opposed to "language policing", especially when the offensive language is part of the source material being asked about in a question. Moderators can discuss the feedback privately with authors, so it can be less disruptive to let them handle it.

In the future instead of going straight to "CoC violation" whenever you see something offensive, consider whether the academic context might mitigate some of the issue. If you do come across something that is very offensive to you, flag it for the moderators and explain the issue. If that doesn't resolve the issue, you should escalate to the CM team using the "Contact" link at the bottom of every page.


* And I purposefully did not add a fig leaf or use a euphemism here to make a point. I wonder if part of the reason the question was initially misunderstood is because of the author's reluctance to write out "nigger". We should be able to talk about offensive language without having to wink-wink-nudge-nudge our way through the conversation.

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