What is meta? ×
Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 130 Stack Exchange communities.

When I originally wrote this request, I was basing it off of Jeff's assertion that "expletives are not acceptable behavior on meta or any other Stack Overflow site." After going through a number of these posts, however, I also found that the use of the word "damn" is often an indicator of a low-quality post (as explained below). Before doing anything about this, though, please read Mark Trapp's excellent response and then flag posts if they need flagging, but do not blindly replace (i.e. censor) all instances of "damn" with "darn" (especially in a phrase like "Damn Small Linux").


I just flagged an "answer" that was no more than a gripe about XCode.

damned this happen to me also, why Xcode 4 so complicated now???

This got me thinking—how many other questions and answers on Stack Overflow use the word "damn"? Perhaps these would be good candidates for posts to flag...

It turns out that there are over 2,700 Stack Overflow posts that use the word "damn." As you can see from the examples below, the use of the word "damn" is a bit of a low-quality "smell": in many cases it indicates posts that should be flagged for removal (as not an answer, for instance).

  1. Komodo Edit has a reasonably good Vi emulation mode. It's also very good for code sense etc.. and supports a plethora of languages. Linux and Windows... and damn, I should be on commission with these guys... wait a minute, it's freeware... Damn! Damn! Damn! [link]

  2. Ended up "touching" the field again as a workaround.

    Damn you EF. [link]

  3. I'm looking for the same thing... Damn it gives me a parser error... :( [link]

  4. Damn! it's so easy! http://www.ioncannon.net/programming/975/spring-3-file-upload-example/ [link]

  5. Damn! I don´t know that it is possible to use wildcards with the assertConfirmation command! :-) [link]

If anyone has the time or inclination, it probably wouldn't hurt to look through these posts and flag (or remove) any that clearly do not belong on the site. The following caveats apply.

  1. Read Mark Trapp's excellent response.
  2. Flag posts if they need flagging.
  3. Do not blindly censor all instances of "damn" (especially in a phrase like "Damn Small Linux").
share|improve this question

closed as off-topic by Shadow Wizard, ɥʇǝS, Martijn Pieters, Yannis, Monica Cellio Aug 1 at 1:34

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question pertains only to a specific site in the Stack Exchange Network. Questions on Meta Stack Exchange should pertain to our network or software that drives it as a whole, within the guidelines defined in the help center. You should ask this question on the meta site where your concern originated." – Shadow Wizard, ɥʇǝS, Martijn Pieters, Yannis, Monica Cellio
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

2  
Thanks for pointing this out, I've started chipping in. SO shouldn't be the trash heap of the internet. –  Lance Roberts Oct 31 '11 at 5:42
24  
How many people actually find "damn" offensive so long as it's not "damn [you|her]" (targeted at a person)? Every workplace I've ever been in it was used freely. –  agf Oct 31 '11 at 5:43
3  
Regardless of whether people find "damn" offensive, if it's classified as an expletive, Jeff has made it clear that it doesn't belong on Stack Overflow. –  Chris Frederick Oct 31 '11 at 5:45
15  
There is 211 with 'bugger', 3,314 with 'crap' and 142 with 'poo'. Lucky there is no mention of 'oh fiddlesticks!' otherwise we might have to make people write lines or stand in the corner. –  xiaohouzi79 Oct 31 '11 at 5:52
5  
@Chris: please don't kill the 27 Qs that talk about "Damn Small Linux" –  Mat Oct 31 '11 at 6:37
3  
@Chris: I don't think so, I was just pointing out that some uses can be legitimate. (My opinion on this: it's a waste of your time. From the few Qs I've looked at in your search, the uses of "damn" are harmless.) –  Mat Oct 31 '11 at 6:43
31  
@LanceRoberts stop replacing Damn Small Linux with DS Linux. It makes no sense whatsoever. –  Sathya Oct 31 '11 at 7:02
9  
@Lance People refer to Windows XP & Windows 7 as WinXP & Win7, that doesn't mean you go and replace all instances of Windows to Win. –  Sathya Oct 31 '11 at 7:14
7  
Are we already at that point again? I mean, I agree with the general idea, but can we please stop masking proper names? Sorry for picking you @LanceRoberts but, seriously: Removing "Damn" from "Damn Small Linux" in the title renders the title uninformative...and that question should be migrated to SU, by the way. Or this one, that edit's a joke, right? –  Time Traveling Bobby Oct 31 '11 at 7:34
4  
Wait where did you get this interpretation? "The amount of downvotes on this post has reminded me how sensitive a topic profanity is." First of all vots means whatever the voters want them to mean and vary by voter. Secondly my guess would be the exact opposite: that the downvotes mean that people don't think this is such a sensitive issue and does not need addressing in the way you propose. –  Caleb Oct 31 '11 at 11:17
25  
As someone who had their damn edited out of an answer, I think the idea is damnably stupid. Only a damned pantywaist would consider damn to be a curse word. Technically, I suppose, it could be said that damn qualifies, but damn... –  Won't Oct 31 '11 at 13:09
10  
And your assertion that "damn in a post = low quality" is pretty damned simplistic. I note from my own experience, you edited a single word from one of my answers: damn. The entire post remains but for that word. A single word doesn't make a post low-quality. –  Won't Oct 31 '11 at 13:10
8  
@Asylum: I don't want to give him a damned inch on this issue! If the post is low quality, it needs more work than just editing out "damn" (which he did to one of my posts). Frankly, I could find a number of "low quality" posts that share anydamnthing in common and say that commonality is a smell. –  Won't Oct 31 '11 at 13:34
9  
There is a linux for nintendo DS called "DS Linux"; that is different from the now dead linux distribution damn small linux. –  DanBeale Oct 31 '11 at 15:30
6  
@LanceRoberts: If the line between right and wrong lies between damn and darn then we are all screwed. Also, try on some humor sometime; it fits better than moral superiority. –  Won't Nov 2 '11 at 13:45

4 Answers 4

up vote 33 down vote accepted

The general workflow for cleanups like this tend to go:

  1. Come up with a straightforward rule of thumb X.
  2. Apply it indiscriminately to all 3+ million questions on the network.
  3. ???
  4. Prof—I mean, problem solved!

The thing is, when you have 3 million questions, naively applying rules of thumb like "every curse word is bad and shows a lack of professionalism" rarely works and usually causes more harm then good.

What counts?

There are some curse words I think any reasonable person would consider as such. But there are a whole mess of them that are in a gray area. Is "damn" profane? What about "crap"? How about "cretin"?

We now have three sites that relate to the Abrahamic religions: Judaism.SE, Christianity.SE, and Biblical Hermeneutics.SE. If someone uses God's name or Jesus's name in vain, is that considered profanity?

What about names of software that include potentially profane words? There's the language that rhymes with maintuck, but what about Damn Small Linux?

When does it count?

You point to Jeff's answer as a universal, unbendable rule, but funny thing, it was bent on English.SE (emphasis his):

No [you do not need to add NSFW to titles], but we do ask that you mildly censor question titles because those can show up on the Stack Exchange homepage and other places where seeing an extremely vile curse word is definitely not welcome.

In the body, and the tags, you may do as you see fit.

That's the thing with rules of thumb, especially when they're applied to a corpus of millions of questions: there are going to be exceptions, including ones the people applying the rules aren't going to be aware of.

Moving forward

Requesting a cleanup of such language isn't going to work unless you're prepared to create a ruleset that covers every possible exception and allowance.

If you aren't prepared to do that, the exercise wastes everyone's time: it wastes yours for proposing something that doesn't have a chance in working, it wastes the people participating in the cleanup who edit things that don't need to be edited, and it wastes others who then have to go back and clean up the mess the first group created.

There's a reason why Stack Exchange relies on human editing and why it takes a non-trivial amount of rep to get the ability to do it unattended: you're expected to think and use your best judgement when editing, not mindlessly apply some rule about obscenity. If that was the case, it'd be a hell of a lot easier to just find and replace every instance of the word "damn" with "darn" at the database level.

Cleaning up wanton vulgarity and obscenity is a noble pursuit: if you see blatant examples of it, use your edit and flagging powers to clean it up. But it doesn't need to be a global effort: Stack Exchange has been doing okay without it so far.

share|improve this answer
8  
I was so infuriated by this idea I didn't read the other answers before writing an answer myself. I see now you already covered everything I wanted to say, and way more, and more calmly. :) +1. I'll remove my answer –  Pëkka Oct 31 '11 at 9:30

If you think it is an indicator of bad quality, then look at the individual posts, and edit them to make them better - edit the posts in general, not only remove the "swear words".

Simply blocking (or removing) the word will not remove the bad quality, only its indicator, and make it more difficult to find these posts.

share|improve this answer
    
Your second paragraph is exactly why I'm against blocking duplicate titles! –  Matthew Read Oct 31 '11 at 20:20

I'd consider "crap" a profanity, but Jeff Atwood uses that word. I think it has to be pretty d*rned cr*ppy profanity to be flaggable.

If the profanity detracts from an otherwise wonderful answer, consider removing it, but I'd be half-tempted to leave it in just to indicate the author's a tad unprofessional. Maybe I'm in a apathetic mood today.

share|improve this answer

Please stop editing "damn" out of questions, people. I think most of us are on the same page in regards to really strong expletives, but there is always going to be a grey area of mild expletives (and I would not classify "damn" even as that) that one will just have to live with.

This site is not our place of work; it is a professional but informal meeting place for developers. Occasional swearing is bound to happen, and does not need cleaning up.

If you encounter language that offends you in an ongoing, current question or conversation, flag or edit it.

share|improve this answer

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .