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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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    The term is obnoxious, undoubtedly racist, used gratituously for shock value, and a taboo word for a considerable amount of time unlike "coloured person". What is the answer? Asking the OP to remove the offensive term? Expect the moderators to close the post?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 13 at 3:49
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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 regret I wasted my time writing an explanation when you apparently just want a rule citation. So, as Andrew mentioned in the comments, read the most recent guidance on flagging. If you care what the community thinks (although it doesn’t seem like you do) there’s some relevant discussion in Does cited material merit special consideration when the content is potentially offensive or unwelcoming?

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  • As I explained in comments, I absolutely agree that not all offensive words should be censored in every single situation, and that academic discussion should always be possible. And I said it seemed in violation of the CoC, prompting my question. And like I said in my question, I did flag it, and I did propose an edit. My question is: what is the way this should be handled, in case an offensive word is used but not pertinent to the question? Your answer is: let any user flag if they want to, so the moderators can deal with it on a case-by-case basis?
    – Joachim
    Jun 13 at 6:56
  • Additionally, I didn't use the word, because the link to the question I was asking about still had the word, and I don't feel the need to somehow undermine my own point (using such a word where it is not needed).
    – Joachim
    Jun 13 at 6:57
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    @Joachim You may want to read the most recent guidance on flagging. It's a bit old and could do with updating since the flag options have changed, but the bits about offensive language are still worthwhile. I declined your flag on the question, because the word was a quote in context.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Jun 13 at 8:34
  • @AndrewLeach That's helpful, thank you! So can I conclude the way I initially dealt with it was the right way, in the sense that I handled something I thought was impertinent the way it should be handled? I found these guidelines, which correspond with my idea of handling offensive words like the one referenced (even though I used asterisks), but not with yours, IMHO. Are you willing to elucidate your decision in this light?
    – Joachim
    Jun 13 at 19:55
  • Yes: you proposed an edit, which was rejected; you didn't get into an edit war but flagged. That was declined. The guidelines you link to are even older than the ones I recommended. I've already commented that context is important: the context justified its appearance — in a quote.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Jun 13 at 20:06

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