Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Mind Your Language

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  • Emma Hart,

    If you want to play the Clean Reader game, this column has a by no means comprehensive list of its substitutions.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    If characters from The Wire start talking like they're in Famous Five books – "Gosh darnit, what the freaking heck is that freak doing here?" – they have become different characters.

    I'll say. I mean, this just doesn't seem right:

    Aw... freak.
    Mother-freaker!
    Freak freak freakity freak.
    Freak
    Mmmm... freak. Freak freak freak.
    The freak?
    Freak.
    Freak!
    No. Freak.
    Freak it. Aw, the freak.
    Mother-freak!
    Oh freak. Oh freak.
    Freakity freak freak freak freak. Freaker.
    Aw freak. Freak.
    Freak freak freak freak.
    Mother freaker!
    Freaking-A!
    Freak!
    Mother-freaker.
    Freak me.
    Pow.
    Heh.

    (With apologies to Bunk and McNulty)

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1711 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Famous Five books

    "Oh Timmy, you're so licky. Just like the first time"

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    Also, the filter had, as they very often do, the Scunthorpe Problem.

    There’s also that theo-con news web site run by the American Family Association that renamed athlete Tyson Gay to “Tyson Homosexual”.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5416 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    In Clean Reader, all sex is anal sex.

    Amazing how attempts to enforce purity inspire a race to the bottom.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1887 posts Report Reply

  • Ray Gilbert,

    Anyone else remember the TV censored version of Repo Man where they had great fun sanitising by replacing with ridiculous words in their place.

    Flip you melon farmer is still one of my favourite movie lines.

    Since Nov 2006 • 103 posts Report Reply

  • Kim_Wright,

    And then there's the utterly hilarious "Tongan Ninja"

    My favourite line "We'll be back ... you ..... homeowners!"

    Here's the final fight scene for a snapshot of the laughs.

    Wellington • Since May 2009 • 57 posts Report Reply

  • Rebecca Williams,

    i am kind of pleased and kind of embarrassed that i'd never even heard of Clean Reader. and kind of glad to hear it's been taken off the market, to be sure.

    when it's your book being freaked in the jerk

    that last line made me laugh out loud Emma. laugh. out. loud.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 120 posts Report Reply

  • Rebecca Williams,

    LOL flip you melon farmer!!!! actual LOL.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 120 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    If characters from The Wire start talking like they’re in Famous Five books – “Gosh darnit, what the freaking heck is that freak doing here?” – they have become different characters. Less plausible characters. Completely freaking ridiculous characters.

    Ironically, the language in shows like Boardwalk Empire had to be dirtied up to modern standards, because saying things like "You goddamned varmint" was actually a pretty rough insult then. But it wouldn't work now, it would just sound silly, even though that was f-ing and blind-ing like Billy-o then.

    So what's the take on reverse bowdlerization? Vandalism?

    I thought that the Costner/De Niro Untouchables managed an interesting medium ground. Very little actual foul language by today's standards, but they still managed to convey curses, just by the evocative imagery and tonal intensity. Instead of "Fuck you, you dirty prick" we get "Fuck you AND your family", which comes off quite a lot nastier really. Or instead of "Talk, you motherfucker" we get "What's the matter, can't you talk with a gun in your mouth?" <bang, brains explode through window>. Or instead of "I popped a cap in your Mick buddy's arse", it's "Your friend died screaming like a stuck Irish pig - I just wanted you to know that for when I beat the rap".

    But there's no way any software's going to be able to do that for a long time.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to BenWilson,

    But there’s no way any software’s going to be able to do that for a long time.

    Well it'd take actual work, by a person, which took into account things like voice and context. But yes, leaving them out altogether is vastly preferable to using minced oaths, because there's a certain kind of person who uses minced oaths and it's basically Ned Flanders.

    Very little actual foul language by today’s standards, but they still managed to convey curses, just by the evocative imagery and tonal intensity.

    Because it's not the words themselves that are rude or offensive or whatever, but the intent.

    This also goes for shows that use fake swear-words. You never had to be told what 'frack' meant.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    I love the Firefly solution: "Gorram", "Humped", etc. Any really bad cussing in Chinese. And gather not usual Chinese curse-words either.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Emma Hart,

    Well it’d take actual work, by a person, which took into account things like voice and context.

    Yeah or some hella good software. But even then, a computer's probably better off sending a chill down your spine with a polite "I'm sorry Dave, I can't do that".

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to BenWilson,

    But there’s no way any software’s going to be able to do that for a long time

    It's a similar problem to machine translation, and that's been quietly moving ahead of late.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    and that’s been quietly moving ahead of late.

    It's been moving ahead our whole lives.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • tussock,

    Translation's getting better faster now because they've crowdsourced it and you get to enter improvements into the translation engine as you translate things. At least for babelfish, or whatever google calls it now they've lost their soul.

    --

    I have seen the odd use for censorship that basically worked, you just have to accept that everything under the censor bar is equal, so you have to stop adding terms very quickly. The C-word, N-word, and F-word (no, not the four letter one, but the one you don't use) can just enjoy their timeout together. It's not that they're bad words, it's that certain people so often do terrible things with them of late. Of course, I find that I use them more often when the censor bar will save me.

    Like, cunts are lovely, Niggas With Attitude was a revolutionary group, and old books sometimes use faggot correctly. Words are not bad, but people totally are. Same as you might ban swastikas just because of all the Nazis who like waving them. </Godwin>

    Since Nov 2006 • 607 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    books sometimes use faggot correctly.

    e.g., when an American base guard inspects a Witchfinder’s identity card in Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens (p.346):

    “What’s this here,” he said suspiciously, “about us got to give you faggots?”
    “Oh, we have to have them,” said Newt. “We burn them.”
    “Say what?”
    “We burn them.”
    The guard’s face broadened into a grin. And they’d told him England was soft. “Right on!” he said.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1887 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock,

    Although it's sometimes better when people have to get creative to get one past the censors.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Miche Campbell,

    Oh I love the censored version of the '80s film Repo Man for its silliness.

    "Flip you, melon farmer!"
    "Well forget you, airhead!"

    Comedy gold.

    Dunedin • Since Feb 2011 • 79 posts Report Reply

  • Miche Campbell, in reply to Rich Lock,

    "Quim" is an ancient and venerable word. Go and read some Victorian porn -- it's hilarious in its inventive use of euphemism.

    Dunedin • Since Feb 2011 • 79 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Rich Lock,

    Although it’s sometimes better when people have to get creative to get one past the censors.

    That's like the way they were allowed to say "wanker" on Buffy because it was America and nobody knew what it meant.

    But again, a lot the power of that insult is packed into Tom Hiddlestone's delivery of that line. "Mewling" is just as degrading as "quim", the way he says it.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Josh Addison, in reply to Emma Hart,

    That's like the way they were allowed to say "wanker" on Buffy because it was America and nobody knew what it meant.

    I've always wondered if that's actually true, or if Americans just pretended not to know what "wanker" means so they could get away with swearing on TV. Buffy wasn't the first to do it by a long shot - I remember on Married With Children how Peggy Bundy's maiden name was Wanker and she hailed from Wanker County. And I swear one of the British-accented characters on Jem and the Holograms called someone a wanker once - I remember hearing that as a youngster and thinking "you can't say that in a kids' cartoon!"

    Onehunga, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 298 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Josh Addison,

    I’ve always wondered if that’s actually true, or if Americans just pretended not to know what “wanker” means so they could get away with swearing on TV.

    See, now I'm going to have to go find the episode and watch it with the commentary. Oh no...

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    (Some) americans really don’t know what ‘wanker’ means. Phil Collins guested in an episode of Miami Vice where they decided that “bitch” was unacceptable language for prime time TV, so he called the character a wanker instead. (This may be the only creative thing he had done since leaving Genesis).

    See also the Mitsubishi Pajero. In some Spanish dialects, that means “cowboy”, apparently. In others…

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    See also the Mitsubishi Pajero. In some Spanish dialects, that means “cowboy”, apparently. In others…

    I have a Catalan comic somewhere, the authorship of which I can’t attribute from memory, where a bunch of inept islamic zealots set sail across the Mediterranean to invade Spain. Their battle cry is “Viva la coitus interruptus”. They make landfall on an island where they startle a masturbating lighthouse keeper with the cry “Viva la pajotus interruptus”.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

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