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Is there any "swearword" in English not associated with excrements, the genitals, sexual activity or religion?

This question seems perfectly clear to me. The user is asking for swearwords that aren't religion, genital or excrement related.

Why was it put on hold?

  • I've just cast the final vote needed to reopen it. Your question here is still a valid one, but at least the one on the ELU site is now open again. – Erik Kowal Oct 3 '14 at 9:09
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The question appears to be asking for a list of words. While I personally agree that such lists are okay, the powers that be have long insisted that such questions are disallowed.

As of 9:00 AM GMT-4 I note that the question says:

Can you identify any that doesn't follow the rule and tell when and where it originated?

and

I'm looking for swearwords that are not related to excrements, sex or religion, and still might shock someone.

Though the question disavows looking for a list, it still seems to me to be asking for a list instead of a yes/no question, especially since

some of them have already been mentioned in the answers below.

If it were a yes/no question, the existence of one such swear word would be enough to definitively answer "yes" and then the question no longer needs reopening.

So despite my personal dislike for the "no lists" rule, the question does still look like a list question, and frankly, as a non-list question it would be useless.

  • Well, technically he's asking a yes/no question. It could be answers 'Yes - for example...'. (I think that rule is dumb :P ). – dwjohnston Oct 1 '14 at 21:13
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    I'm the OP. I find it unfair to put the question on hold. Your argument that I'm asking for a long list of words doesn't apply. The question was read by an unexpected number of members, it has got 16 votes so far, and the accepted answer 18 votes. It has been viewed by over 3000 members in less than 24 hours. That should mean something even if low-rep members' opinions don't count much.My main argument, however, is that after being read by so many people, we only got 4 swearwords not related to sex, religion, or excrements, that are really shocking. And 4 can hardly be considered a long list. – Centaurus Oct 1 '14 at 23:59
  • And 4 can hardly be considered a long list. Not even a list, I would say. Please reconsider. ps. "The question appears to be asking" but it isn't. – Centaurus Oct 2 '14 at 0:07
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    When a question "appears to be asking" but it isn't, that is a sign that the question needs to be edited. – MetaEd Oct 2 '14 at 2:19
  • @MετάEd It has been. – Centaurus Oct 2 '14 at 2:20
  • @user463240 I've updated my answer to address your edits. Until the rule is changed I'm not sure the question can be saved. I would support you in pushing for a rule change but I fear we're in the minority. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Oct 2 '14 at 12:59
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    The cited "official stance" is a bit outdated, especially in so far as list questions not really being a thing. I'm not much certain on this particular question to make a direct call myself though. – Grace Note Oct 2 '14 at 15:06
  • The "ban" on list answers is a sensible one but I've always interpreted it to be connected with the P.O.B. close vote. In the OP's case, the close vote claims the question is unclear which is absurd. Now you could argue that the OP's question has received a lot of (unexpected) attention, many answers and his question has been upvoted. Moreover, he has accepted an answer, which implies the OP is satisfied, so the request to reopen it is motivated by the need to have 1) new answers or it's a question of principle. – Mari-Lou A Oct 2 '14 at 17:15
  • @GraceNote wow, so you're saying that in some circumstances list questions are allowed? Amazing! – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Oct 3 '14 at 13:16
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    @Mr.Shiny It's more that, I don't think "list questions" are a thing so we can't really put a blanket ban on something that doesn't exist. Something I've been saying for a while, it's very similar to that notion that the word "best" automatically transforms a question into the worst thing when, actually, it does nothing of the sort. It's a false construct that people jump on across the network without a proper understanding of what actually is bad. – Grace Note Oct 3 '14 at 15:24
  • @GraceNote you are my hero. Thanks. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Oct 3 '14 at 17:20
  • There's a difference between asking 'Can anyone provide me with as many examples of multi-word prepositions as possible?' and 'Can anyone provide me with as many examples of compound nouns as possible?' Probably measurable in months. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 4 '14 at 16:35
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    This comment, posted a few days after the question had been reopened, shows how someone rushes to closevote a question without reading it carefully. "This question should be closed because it is too broad (and not useful,IMHO).There are zillions of such words. Think of all of the words that are socially unacceptable because they are offensive to one community of people or another. AND MY REPLY:MR SO-AND-SO, How many such words, not about sex, religion or excrements, that will shock someone who overhears them - can you think of? Note well, my question says "will shock someone who OVERHEARS" – Centaurus Oct 4 '14 at 19:52
  • The "no lists" rule makes sense if you understand it to be a prohibition against LONG lists, like "what nouns exist in English?". Almost any question could be answered by a "list" in some sense. I often give answers that say "There are 3 reasons ...". Once you give 2 examples, you technically have a list. On this question the poster's intent seems to me to be, not to collect a list of dozens or hundreds of such words, but to ask if there are ANY. Of course any affirmative answer should give a couple of examples. But asking for examples is not, to my mind, the same as asking for a list. – Jay Oct 8 '14 at 13:37
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    I have a hard time with someone saying that a question should be closed because it "appears to" ask for something illegal that it, in fact, does not explicitly ask for. I've seen a lot of questions closed with a comment that they could be re-opened if the poster edited the question to conform to this or that rule. But the writer here "appears to be" saying that even if you explicitly edit a question to avoid a taboo area, your question can still be closed on the grounds that someone reading it might ignore your specific wording, re-interpret the question to mean something different, and ... – Jay Oct 8 '14 at 13:40
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I didn't closevote the original question, and I don't actually think it should have been closed.

It seems to me that for most Anglophones today, racist/xenophobic terms like the N-word are effectively "swearwords". Given we use that particular euphemism by analogy with the C-word and the F-word, it's obvious we feel they all fall into the same general category of "taboo words".

The OP makes it clear he's not looking for a list - just a single example would suffice so long as there's a reasonable consensus that it is a "swearword". Perhaps it would have been better if the OP had explicitly asked for a precise definition of "swearword", but that might have been closed a General Reference anyway.

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    Thanks for the link to the very informative and interesting discussion regarding the 'C-word'. – Erik Kowal Oct 3 '14 at 9:17
  • The OP made clear what s?he means by a "swearword" here (and that term is even in quotes in the original, suggesting that a special or restricted meaning is involved here): "words or phrases that will shock those who overhear them" (in bold in the original). And that certainly applies to "racist/xenophobic terms like the N-word" - at least if their target does the overhearing. And there are a multitude of such terms. – Drew Oct 10 '14 at 20:59
  • @Drew: If we're going to include any derogatory terms that might shock the "target" on being overheard, that would probably have to include words like fat, ugly, stupid. To be objectively meaningful we have to stick to words that are actually considered taboo in and of themselves by the majority of native speakers. – FumbleFingers Oct 11 '14 at 12:02
  • @FumbleFingers: I have no problem with that. Some of the words that I am thinking of are certainly taboo - nowadays at least, in the US at least. But the OP specifically (a) did not limit this to taboo words, and (b) said "I don't mean mild offenses like "dumb", "idiot", "jackass", "blockhead" or the like. That is why I mentioned ethnic slurs and the like (e.g. sexist, racist,...). You are anyway in effect confirming that the question should be closed as too broad or unclear. (1) The categories of applicable requested words are unclear and (2) there are many such words. – Drew Oct 11 '14 at 15:16
  • @Drew: I don't really understand what we're arguing about - or even if we are in fact "arguing". Are you saying you wanted the question to remain closed as Too Broad/Unclear? I'm inclined to see bitch as effectively sexually loaded (from bitch on heat), and bastard as religious (not legitimised by a church wedding). So far as I'm concerned, we've recently reclassified racist terms as "taboo" (equivalent to "swearwords", imho). But I'm not convinced spastic, mongol etc., are swearwords, so I think there's just that one "racist" category of new swearwords. – FumbleFingers Oct 11 '14 at 17:50
  • @FumbleFingers: I'm not arguing. I explained why I voted to close the question as too broad/unclear (and I'm not insisting that it be closed or that others judge this the same as I do). I mentioned that even if one wants to restrict this to taboo words (which the OP did not mention) it is still too broad/unclear. There are lots of (IMO) shocking "swearwords" (using the OP's definition of that term) that are ethnic slurs and that are not "associated with excrements, the genitals, sexual activity or religion". – Drew Oct 11 '14 at 19:06
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It's interesting to me that in the comments beneath Mr. Shiny and New 安宇's answer, no one seems particularly enthusiastic about the "no lists rule" and yet the consensus is that we must obey and enforce it.

Many worthy questions may seek answers that are, in effect, short lists. From one point of view, that is essentially what single-word requests are—invitations for answerers to list (and sometimes briefly comment on) the most appropriate words to match the questioner's criteria. Though I'm not a huge fan of single-word requests, they are obviously one of the most popular types of questions on this site, perhaps because coming up with one or two or three relevant suggestions is easy and fun.

I don't see any crucial difference between a question formulated as "What word means X?" (the standard single-word-request formulation) and "What word or words in Category X of words satisfies/satisfy neither criterion Y nor criterion Z?" (the formulation used initially by the OP of the question at issue here). I can easily imagine questions of either type that may have excessively many "correct" answers— such as "What word means 'fast'"? or "What nouns begin with neither the letter a nor the letter b?"—but in those instances, the more apt criticism of the question is that it is too broad or too general, not that it asks for a list.

I agree with Jay's comment above that a question that asks for one or more examples that satisfy a narrowly defined set of criteria is distinguishable from a request for an exhaustive list of such examples. It ought to be possible for users of this site to ask and answer such questions without first having to contort the questions so that they can't possibly be interpreted as list requests. What matters most is the value of the question and of the answers it draws, not whether its form can be interpreted as offending some arbitrary but longstanding taboo. Common sense is a better guide.


Followup Remarks (10/13/2014): At this moment, the question Other ways to say "I'm rooting for you?" has attracted 48,701 views over the three years since it was asked, and it is likely to garner several hundred more views in the next five days, since it carries a bounty of 100 points for most of the next week, offered because "This question has not received enough attention."

The body of the question (as opposed to the head already cited above) is "What are other ways one can say that have the same meaning as, 'I'm rooting for you?'" I see no evidence of any research effort on the poster's part, and both the head and the body of the question look very much like requests for a list of phrases similar to "I'm rooting for you." So if I were looking for an instance of a minimally researched list request to make an example of by voting to close it, "Other ways to say 'I'm rooting for you?'"—odd punctuation and all—would be a great candidate.

And yet... and yet... There is something deeply troubling about trying to disqualify a question that tens of thousands of site visitors have cared enough about to view. This is the fundamental contradiction that (in my view) haunts EL&U with regard to list questions and single-word requests: Questioners love to ask them, answerers love to respond to them, and site visitors love to read them. In fact, the only drawback of such invitations to play Name (or List] That Synonym is that they have so little to do with what I imagine are the core concerns of linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts: thoughtful, informed investigations of grammatical structure, word history, and the like.

We are extremely inconsistent in our barring or not barring of questions that ask for lists, just as we are extremely inconsistent in our barring or not barring of questions whose askers have shown little or no effort to research a question before posting it. Our inconsistency doesn't mean that we should abandon any attempt to bar such questions; but it does mean that a person trying to figure out whether a question is good enough to post, based on what is already up on the site and hence (effectively) approved, will see many misleading examples of what we apparently consider "good enough." And if their question gets shot down because it asks for a list or doesn't show adequate research effort, they are likely to feel that the decision to close their question was based on arbitrary and unfair selective enforcement. Viewed objectively, it seems to me, they wouldn't be far wrong.

How can we improve? I favor two steps: rectification of names (identifying reasons for closure that reflect what we actually don't like about the flawed questions), and consistent enforcement (closing all questions that run afoul of those reasons). From other discussions here on Meta, I've gotten the impression that some descriptively accurate reasons for closing bad questions (such as "Too Elementary for Our Site; Try Asking at ELL" or "Already Answered in the Comments and Not Likely to Draw Any Further Response" or "Too Specific to Be of Interest to Anyone but the Poster") may be deemed too harsh in tone or in some other way inappropriate for the EL&U.

But if the alternative is to get rid of bad questions by selectively playing the "Too General" card or the "Insufficient Effort by the Poster" card, we're not doing the rejected posters or ourselves any favors. We don't help the posters understand what exactly was objectionable about their questions that was not objectionable in various equally general or equally unresearched questions that we've let stand. And we don't help ourselves by giving prospective future posters of bad questions a clear sense what our standards are—a shortcoming that encourages posters to hope that they may be one of the lucky ones whose questions don't get closed despite (for example) minimal research effort.

  • As of February 16, 2016, the number of views for "Other ways to say 'I'm rooting for you?'" stands at 99,641. Clearly a lot of people are interested in list questions, whether the questions show research effort or not. – Sven Yargs Feb 15 '16 at 23:25

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