“Bad” language and context

Two little semi-related items:

A few weeks back, we were watching our weekly Saturday night DVD–a Netflix blend of indies, mainstream (non-horror, low violence, broad-ranging otherwise), whatever local critics thought well of. I don’t remember the movie; I do remember that my wife felt that the characters used the F-word so casually as to be irritating and not particularly realistic.

Last night, the picture was Human Nature (a charming and very well made little movie that I’d recommend). The F-word was used a number of times. Neither of us found it at all objectionable–because it was always contextually appropriate and what you’d expect a real person to say under the circumstances. (By the way, that’s two unusual and very good movies in a row, with an actor who links them: The Station Attendant, which we saw a week ago, is also first-rate. Peter Dinklage, the dwarf who’s the star of the latter, has a small but pivotal role in Human Nature. As usual with Dinklage, he’s very good in both.)

The other item: Reading the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Book Review section today (almost entirely locally-written). Near the end was a review by Kenneth Baker, the Chron‘s principal art critic, of Harry G. Frankfurt’s On Bullshit, the surprise best-seller from Princeton University Press. Good review.

Except for one thing: Throughout the review, buried near the bottom of the fifth page of a serious book review section, what you saw was “bull—” and “Bull—-”.

I must say, I never thought of San Francisco as so conservative that “bullshit” was too strong a word to be used in public, particularly when it’s part of the title of a serious work. (Which is indeed about bullshit, and the extent to which it’s worse than deliberate lying).

Note that I’m fairly conservative: I won’t use the F-word on this blog or elsewhere in print. But not use bullshit? Now, that’s bullshit!

3 Responses to ““Bad” language and context”

  1. Brian Says:

    The dashes are intact in the review on sfgate.com.When Frankfurt was on The Daily Show some weeks ago, “bullshit” went unbleeped in the original cablecast but was bleeped out in the reruns. Frankfurt’s essay is a decent (and quick) read, with a great last line. I dug up a used-to-be-on-a-website version via the Wayback Machine — http://web.archive.org/web/20040209211017/tauroscatology.com/frankfurt.htm .
    Walt, is it safe to assume that you’ve never played the Scarface drinking game? :-)

  2. walt Says:

    “Tauroscatology”–gotta love that!

    No, I’ve never played the Scarface drinking game (or any other drinking game, at least within the last three decades).

  3. Eli Says:

    I see Brian’s “Scarface” and raise him “Harlem Nights”.

    Also, I thought s__t was still beyond the bounds of family newspapers, as it is on broadcast TV.


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