Why do words like "expectorate" sound more posh than words like "spit"? includes two examples of asterisks used to avoid spelling out in full offensive words.
Most serious encyclopaedic resources avoid this kind of timidity.

What are other people's thoughts? As a non-private-beta user apologies if this has already been discussed and/or agreed upon, but as a newcomer the use of asterisks struck me as something that detracted from the seriousness of the question in particular and the community in general.

Edit: I mean, of course, a post in which the offensive word itself (its spelling or usage or etymology) is under discussion, as in the example, rather than because it has been introduced colloquially.

  • Also covered in this related answer, under "Questions which are actually about offensive language".
    – sourcejedi
    Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 22:55

5 Answers 5


If we have to discuss words like shit and fuck and cunt by bowdlerizing them that will be my ticket out of here.

  • A suggested edit: remove "and cunt". Add a second paragraph: "The same applies to cunt, which is the other example in the linked discussion." (I read the Meta Q, the linked Q, and this answer, and the C-word came out of the blue. Pun not intended. It was completely unclear to me that it was necessary to use the word in this post. So it felt more like a use than a mention).
    – sourcejedi
    Commented Feb 28, 2020 at 23:37
  • @sourcejedi I have no idea what you're on about. If you're asking me to edit a one-sentence answer from a decade ago expressing my opinion about how we should build a moderation policy for potentially offensive vocabulary, then my response is to politely decline without any further explanation.
    – nohat Mod
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 16:56

I think as long as the obscenity is under discussion, it is fully appropriate to spell it out in full. However, I would consider it inappropriate to use those words at any other time - and anyone that does so would earn a down vote from me - as would any kind of aggression.

However, it seems entirely silly to asterisk out the obscenities under discussion, because, it could lead to confusion as to what obscenity is under discussion, and would also make the site less searchable.

  • 3
    "i would consider it inappropriate" ... of course. with or without the asterisk. i'm talking about posts involving discussion of an obscene word in its own right.
    – hawbsl
    Commented Aug 14, 2010 at 0:27
  • @hawbsl I agree. Commented Aug 16, 2010 at 12:27
  • While I agree inappropriateness and aggression are unpleasant and not welcome in this community, is a down vote necessary? In my opinion, a down vote should be given only if the answer isn't useful or doesn't answer the question; or if the question is vague, doesn't show research, etc. Basically the guidelines you see when hovering over the down vote button.
    – chharvey
    Commented Nov 4, 2012 at 6:04
  • I find aggression to be quite useless (i.e. not useful). Fits the guidelines for me. Commented Nov 4, 2012 at 21:40

It appears that Jeff Atwood would prefer that we bowdlerize titles, but he is OK with the full words appearing in the body of the post; see this edit of his.


In general I agree with the impetus not to bowdlerize the site. That said, however, I would like to see the site be available to language students of all ages as a reference. In many school districts in the United States, too much profanity would result in the site being blocked by school administrators, and i think that would be unfortunate.

I'm not sure how to resolve those competing standards, though.


Hmm, I used the asterisk there because I was aware that the stackoverflow (automatically?) deletes comments and answers containing obscenities, and I didn't want my input to be auto-deleted. Judging from nohat's reply, that rule doesn't seem to be applied here (yet).

  • 3
    I was never aware of this SO rule. Commented Aug 14, 2010 at 13:47
  • @Roger: Try it on stackoverflow.com.
    – delete
    Commented Aug 27, 2010 at 16:35
  • 2
    @Ex-user: stackoverflow.com/questions/184618/… Commented Sep 28, 2010 at 0:20
  • To answer people's curiosity, it's not quite automatic, but there is indeed a feature something like this, currently operating here on ELU. (Or at least the Meta site :-P. I don't expect the ELU main site is much different though). "Specific magic words that are sometimes alluded to, and which make one comment more easily flag-deleted than the next one".
    – sourcejedi
    Commented Feb 26, 2020 at 11:59

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