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@!#?@! –  GEOCHET Sep 16 '09 at 17:02
"You lousy cork-soakers. You have violated my farging rights. Dis somanumbatching country was founded so that the liberties of common patriotic citizens like me could not be taken away by a bunch of fargin iceholes... like yourselves." -- Roman Moroni –  Robert Cartaino Sep 16 '09 at 17:50
Apparently you are not referring to the "syntactic expletive" sense of the word... ;) –  Jonik Sep 16 '09 at 17:50
Shouldn't this have a FAQ tag? (faa...cue?) –  John Rasch Sep 16 '09 at 17:59
@Rich: The answer provided by Jeff was an unequivocal "No." "If you use expletives, you will get a warning." That was done. "If you continue to use expletives, you will be placed on timed suspension." Apparently that was done too. Jeff was sharing policy, not opinion. –  Sampson Sep 16 '09 at 18:06
look at the age distribution on SO - there are children here. Please keep it G-rated. –  Steven A. Lowe Sep 16 '09 at 18:09
@Jonathan: that doesn't really make any sense - Jeff edits the official FAQ, the blog, the whole welbogging site! He doesn't need to post a question here to share official policy, he can just write it. The only point to posting it here is to bring it up for discussion and debate... which was underway. –  Shog9 Sep 16 '09 at 18:09
@Rich: I don't see why Locking it is necessary. His own answer is pretty clear, unequivocal and apparently the active-policy considering what happened recently to a vocal user. –  Sampson Sep 16 '09 at 18:16
We're supposed to be productive here? Oh Jesus I've been doing it wrong this entire time. –  TheTXI Sep 16 '09 at 18:26
What about the abbreviation "RTFM"? Is that allowed? –  Asaph Dec 18 '09 at 2:27
@Asaph Whats wrong with asking those kind gentlemanly users to read that fine manual? –  Reno May 17 '11 at 5:00
Does this also apply to blog posts? I certainly hope not; as a blog admin, this could put me in the position of being a censor. (Not what I signed up to do.) –  Neil Fein Jul 27 '11 at 0:52
@neil it depends on the context, but generally it should be avoided. And by the way, editing is not censorship. –  Jeff Atwood Jul 27 '11 at 2:47
And what if I need to post a question about esolangs.org/wiki/Brainfuck ? –  Cruncher Nov 26 '13 at 18:32
Merriam–Webster define a censor as "a person who examines books, movies, letters, etc., and removes things that are considered to be offensive, immoral, harmful to society, etc." –  janaspage Jul 20 '14 at 16:26

8 Answers 8

Yes, but keep them to a minimum

There are some unholy things that can only be cursed.

Comments are supposed to be lightweight, so there is not much point in regulating them much.

Furthermore, there are people that take some innocent words as cursing.

Words, are words, are words. We should keep the site tidy, but not over enforce.

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Ah, now... Cursing is another matter. Wretched spam! May your for loops spin impotently, your stacks overflow, your segments fault, and all your accesses be deemed violations! May someone let all the smoke out of your monitors, and may all your tin grow whiskers. –  Shog9 Sep 16 '09 at 17:38
+1 for not being a prude. –  XMLbog Sep 16 '09 at 17:39
+1 for common sense, and opposing excessive enforcing –  Jonik Sep 16 '09 at 17:42
oh!, iconic word in English language slang, used to indicate absolute and forceful emphasis/unlawful carnal knowledge 4-across you. –  perbert Sep 16 '09 at 17:44
@Spam: Comments should be restricted to the same vocabulary as any other contribution. Keep it mature, respectful, and clean. –  Sampson Sep 16 '09 at 17:44
Maturity involves crying if someone uses a word that you may or may not approve of? WTF? –  GEOCHET Sep 16 '09 at 17:45
@Rich: Watch your mouth! We know what WTF means and we don't approve. –  belgariontheking Sep 16 '09 at 17:47
Maturity involves crying if someone keeps you from using words on their site that others object to? –  mmyers Sep 16 '09 at 17:47
@mmyers: You have a problem in your logic. I am not claiming to be mature or to be acting mature. –  GEOCHET Sep 16 '09 at 17:48
@Rich B: Touché. –  mmyers Sep 16 '09 at 17:52
@DownwiththeSamp: does that exclude any mention of the DailyWTF? Or that cartoon that proposed the best measurement of code quality to be number of WTFs per unit of code? –  Mark Bannister Oct 31 '11 at 13:16
Wait, so does that mean I can use the f-woid? I think I'm a little confused. Or maybe just shocked - that you said Yes. –  jay_t55 Aug 6 '14 at 22:16
If you really can't think of a word to use without the need to use expletives, maybe you should pick up a dictionary and learn some new ones. –  wf4 Oct 7 '14 at 9:58
Mindless carpet F-bombing usually makes one look a fool, but when one is otherwise polite and well-spoken a precision F-strike can add tremendous gravity to an important point. –  Jeffrey Hantin Oct 8 '14 at 3:26
@wf4 of course, but swearing doesn't necessarily stem from an inability to express oneself otherwise. –  Morawski Oct 9 '14 at 16:09


Expletives are not acceptable behavior on meta or any other Stack Exchange site. If you can't effectively communicate what you need to say without resorting to lowest common denominator cursing, then keep it to yourself.

If you use expletives, you will get a warning.

If you continue to use expletives, you will be placed on timed suspension.

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Poor, poor Welbog... –  gnostradamus Sep 16 '09 at 16:56
Should this be added to the FAQ? Not as a point in itself, but perhaps beneath Be Nice:? –  Sampson Sep 16 '09 at 16:59
I have an idea, lets let the community decide before forcing it upon the community through the FAQ! –  GEOCHET Sep 16 '09 at 17:01
I have an idea, let's try to behave like professionals (even if we aren't). –  mmyers Sep 16 '09 at 17:04
@mmyers: good plan. I'll send you an invoice for this comment. –  Shog9 Sep 16 '09 at 17:05
I fail to see how appreciating clean speech makes one hyper-sensitive. –  mmyers Sep 16 '09 at 17:08
@mmeyers: I fail to see how it doesn't. Are we in kindergarten or something? Do we have rules in malls and other public places that no one is allowed to swear? –  GEOCHET Sep 16 '09 at 17:10
It's mainly about respect. –  mmyers Sep 16 '09 at 17:12
@Rich - Respect is always given, but can always be revoked –  Gavin Miller Sep 16 '09 at 17:19
@Rich: Nothing is changing. The community has the voice, Jeff has the authority. On this particular question, he's got the answer, and the community should respectfully embrace his position. If you don't like it, go someplace else. –  Sampson Sep 16 '09 at 18:23
It's really easy to be offensive without using "bad," "foul," "unclean" language. (Seriously -- why don't those f-bombs go and take a bath already!) That's what flags are for. It's also perfectly easy, particularly in meta, to be inoffensive and humorous with the raw shock value of certain words because they've been labeled by society as "bad," "foul" and "unclean." It's the Internet, folks. We all need thicker skins when it comes to language -- go after intent, not language. And use your flags! :) –  John Rudy Sep 16 '09 at 20:15
On one hand I thought to myself, how would one go about describing Internet Explorer 6 if expletives are disallowed. But ... Abhorrent crime against the Internet .. Obnoxious bug-ridden non-compliant browser .. seem to do the job better anyway. –  waffles Sep 16 '09 at 23:05
The first amendment weeps in silence. –  Rook Aug 27 '10 at 21:39
@Jeff Atwood, Stephen Fry said it best, "I haven't met anybody, who's...truly shocked at swearing, really; they're only shocked on behalf of other people. Well, you know, that's preposterous." –  zzzzBov Feb 20 '11 at 9:44
Are there well defined rules for which words are considered expletives and which are not? If not, how the heck are we supposed to avoid them? –  Keith Thompson Sep 12 '11 at 19:35

It depends.

While 'expletive' has a defined meaning, most folks are just going to break out their own personal "bad words" dictionary to make this decision. Examples of expletives that I don't think will generate a warning:

  • "Your bloody code keeps crashing on the REM statements"
  • "The fracking1 JVM keeps showing all my objects in the heap dumps"

(1: a television show's made up profanity)

Maybe the question should really be, "Are profanity-laced expletives allowed?"

Fact is, this is a professional site and much of the professional world does not tollerate profanities of any kind, expletive or not...especially in public facing environments. I'm personally comfortable with bad words but accept that others are not. If the rule is no, I can fracking live with that.

Now...the race to define that fuzzy grey line...

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What 'professional world' doesn't allow profanities? –  GEOCHET Sep 16 '09 at 17:28
HR and PR –  perbert Sep 16 '09 at 17:29
@Rich B: I don't swear on my resume, client emails, client meetings, or source code. –  devinb Sep 16 '09 at 17:30
@Rich B: I do swear at my source code, about my client meetings and client emails. –  devinb Sep 16 '09 at 17:31
@devinb: Right, and we don't typically allow swearing in our questions and answers, but we do allow it in our profile and comments. Time and place for everything after all. –  GEOCHET Sep 16 '09 at 17:33
@Rich: I totally agree. I feel like in Q's and A's it's never appropriate, in comments it's rarely appropriate, and in profile, everyone can go freakin' nuts. –  devinb Sep 16 '09 at 19:12
@devinb: And if it is welbog, it is always hilarious and therefore welcome. –  GEOCHET Sep 16 '09 at 19:19
This proves that Linux is unprofessional, look at the source code :D (Of course, few people (relatively) outside Microsoft have seen their sources... ;-)) –  Jürgen A. Erhard Aug 20 '11 at 22:05
If the intention is for it to be like profanity, then it basically is already profanity. Just saying... –  jay_t55 Aug 6 '14 at 22:21


Expletives are great and they are a normal form of human communication used to further express emotion or emphasis.

We don't need a site that caters to hypersensitive people that are still stuck in the mindset of kindergartners. Furthermore, comments were always supposed to be informal and there is a flag button right next to the comment if the comment is truly offensive, so where is the problem?

If you are a real man, your profile will also contain as many expletives as possible.

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Expletives are a mark of substandard communication. –  Paul Nathan Sep 16 '09 at 17:08
I am more open to people putting what they want in their profile, within reason. –  Jeff Atwood Sep 16 '09 at 17:09
@Paul: In your opinion. –  GEOCHET Sep 16 '09 at 17:11
@Rich: In the standard classy writings of people since Chaucer's time, rather. Not to mention the ceaseless writings of English-teaching professionals in the 20th and 21st century. If you want to appear a boor, that is of course your choice. –  Paul Nathan Sep 16 '09 at 17:14
@btk: Probably more since there are men that wish to restrict their free speech. –  GEOCHET Sep 16 '09 at 17:17
@Paul: Logic that jumps from me advocating allowing the use of expletives to me being someone who uses them is absurd at best. –  GEOCHET Sep 16 '09 at 17:21
@Paul: You would think that, wouldn't you? –  belgariontheking Sep 16 '09 at 17:22
+1 for free speech. –  XMLbog Sep 16 '09 at 17:40
@Paul: I'm trying to ascertain if there's irony to saying that expletives are ineffective communication, in classy writing dating back to Chaucer. Chaucer was one of the most ribald, bawdy and lewd "classy" writers the English-speaking world has ever seen. Those weren't double entendres in The Canterbury Tales! :) Anyway, I subscribe to Carlin: What makes a word "bad?" What did the words do, steal cookies from the jar in the kitchen? Rob the homeless shelter? –  John Rudy Sep 16 '09 at 18:41
There's different manners of discourse, and different language that is suitable. The vocabulary I use when talking informally with my friends isn't exactly the vocabulary I use on professional sites. –  David Thornley Sep 16 '09 at 19:48
"Professional sites"... On the internet? HOLYWTF? –  GEOCHET Sep 16 '09 at 19:55
@Paul Nathan - I see your point, considering how clean-mouthed the authors of Fahrenheit 451, Catch-22, and many other great modern novels are. –  Super Long Names are Hilarious Sep 16 '09 at 22:55
Expletives are a valid form of communication. Anyone who imposes arbitrary restrictions on your vocabulary by suggesting that you are somehow intellectually lacking if you swear really doesn't have very much imagination and I pity them. One person's curse wouldn't even raise an eyebrow in another community - who am I to try to impose my norms on others when I can't even get them straight in my own head? –  Unsliced Nov 6 '09 at 15:24
And those filthy, filthy movies... now I understand how wrong I was thinking Blue Velvet or Pulp Fiction were great movies! With all that cussing and swearing, they have to be bad! (On a serious note, I'm with @John in subscription to "Saint George" :D) –  Jürgen A. Erhard Jun 30 '11 at 15:59
I hate elitists who think they get to invent how and why they are better than everyone else. –  GEOCHET Oct 8 '12 at 14:39

Questions about expletives are appropriate on English Stack Exchange, though using them in anger wouldn't be.

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@jae: Link or it didn't happen. Was Kevin Rudd involved? –  Andrew Grimm Jun 30 '11 at 22:55
Link, and it did happen :D german.stackexchange.com/q/445/36 –  Jürgen A. Erhard Jul 1 '11 at 0:47

I'll stop using expletives when you clean up the rampant sexism I'm complaining about while using them.

Offensiveness doesn't lie in a particular set of words. Nothing I can type is as creepy as two guys suggesting you take teaching jobs to ogle your female students.

Human moderator intervention at least solves the problem that my comments are being deleted just for containing a word you can hear on prime-time TV, and someone else's comments advocating coercive sexual behavior are left untouched.

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I've asked about this at meta.programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/2449/… –  Andrew Grimm Oct 19 '11 at 23:35
So two wrongs make a right? –  Justin Morgan Aug 1 '14 at 15:41
@JustinMorgan: The only "two wrongs" i see here are the two guys' behavior, and the hypocrisy of ignoring complaints about such behavior to freak out over certain combinations of letters. –  cHao Oct 6 '14 at 21:32
@cHao - Their behavior doesn't excuse anyone else's lack of professionalism. This entire answer, and your comment, boil down to "they acted more unprofessionally than I did, so it's fine." If someone says something inappropriate, either say so, flag it for a moderator, or both. You still have to act like an adult. –  Justin Morgan Oct 7 '14 at 14:40
@JustinMorgan: Many of us don't relate "professionalism" or "acting like an adult" to the avoidance of certain words. In fact, the insistence that they never be uttered -- while other, truly offensive behaviors go unchecked, sometimes after being flagged -- seems pretty childish to me. I'm picturing a bunch of people going around flagging expletives like "OOOO....you said a bad word!" :P –  cHao Oct 7 '14 at 14:45

Probably not (in the more extreme cases), as you wouldn't get the second entry in the area for flagging questions:

it is offensive, abusive of hate speech

'This post contains content that a reasonable person would deem inappropriate for respectful discourse' says it all really.

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Define reasonable. –  Mazura Oct 5 '14 at 22:46


Otherwise there would be an effective swear filter. If you don't have a swear filter you cannot effectively police it. This means you end with an inconsistent policy which frustrates those who wish to swear and still offends those who dislike swearing and come across swearing that hasn't been caught.

Net result being that you've only achieved irritating a bunch of people.

I would suggest as a solution a "Safe" option which does simple word substitution (so people can turn it off in scenarios where the word substitution fails and ruins a bit of innocent text). This would enable those in tricky corporate scenarios to browse safely while not irritating those who like to use the full extent of the English language.

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Just because there isn't a filter doesn't mean you have to ******* swear.... –  cullub Sep 30 '14 at 2:20

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