I suggest people answer with a curse word/short phrase and if the votes on it are net positive then it should be acceptable on normal SO.

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    Listing every offensive phrase you know and then seeing who likes it is probably not a good idea...
    – Tom Ritter
    Jun 29, 2009 at 14:41
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    Some of the most fun I've had was setting up a profanity filter for a bulletin board. Instead of removing/stopping the text we just replaced it with more polite language. So if someone said "kiss my ***", what would actually go up would be something like "I find your stance unpalatable.". We spent a lot of time and hilarity trying to make it as seamless as possible. But the real fun was of course in thinking up horribly offensive things to say, then what they really meant, and finally some generic polite language that would make sense in any context. I literally laughed until tears came.
    – Oorang
    Jun 29, 2009 at 14:54
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    Seeing as Gypsies explicitly aren't allowed on the site (see the FAQ), I don't think that people being cursed is even an issue. Dec 21, 2009 at 12:02
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    I am going to have to take this question up with my analrapist
    – waffles
    Dec 22, 2009 at 1:07

13 Answers 13


My personal rule of thumb: If I wouldn't say it to a boss, co-worker, or customer, I don't say it on Stack Overflow.

  • 1
    That's my personal rule also. Jun 29, 2009 at 14:57
  • I follow this too. Jun 29, 2009 at 15:03
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    +1. Your future boss, co-workers, and customers may be checking your SO profile. Jun 29, 2009 at 15:13
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    And once I get my website up and running, I will be linking to my SO profile. Jun 29, 2009 at 15:17
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    I say lots of stuff to bosses, cow-orkers and customers that I'm (I've just discovered! Sorry!) not allowed to say here.
    – DanBeale
    Oct 11, 2011 at 20:30

From the flags I see, there are some delicate members of the community who will flag most any swearing. Personally, I like this - keeps if SFW etc. And I've yet to see a case where the swearing actually added anything to the post, where "regular" words wouldn't be more expressive.

But what'll really get you whacked for 150 (or whatever) is mixing it with flaming/baiting - i.e. "since {language x} is so f!"£$ s$$$, what decent tools can I use instead?"

I also regularly see people editing out cursing, and I'm 100% supportive of those edits. Again; it adds nothing.

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    Wouldn't normally threadomance on this, but I strongly disagree on three counts - 1). I've seen people censor quoted expletives, which is an entirely different context to think about 2). expletives have real cultural and expressive meaning, it's their context and how gratuitiously they are used where offence can be objectively drawn, 3). since it's not covered by any TOS there are real concerns about rights of free expression. I'm not particularly pro-swearing here, but I am very anti-censorship.
    – bananakata
    Jun 30, 2009 at 12:05
  • @annakata -- the site is collaboratively edited. If this is our (collective) expression, in what sense is it censoring if I choose to modify what someone else wrote? Not that I do this; I tend to do only minimal edits, spelling, usage, etc., but I fail to see how changing the language could be construed as censorship given the wiki nature of the site.
    – tvanfosson
    Jul 2, 2009 at 15:24
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    I've seen several people saying that swearwords are NSFW - I have never understood why. Do some workplaces have naughty word filtering on their web access?
    – Blorgbeard
    Jul 5, 2009 at 21:20
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    I know for certain of some companies that have pretty aggressive filtering, both on url and content. Jul 5, 2009 at 21:58
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    @annakata: I feel the term censored doesn't even apply to environments of voluntary cooperation. SO is privately owned and contributions are voluntary. Censorship, imho, can only be achieved through use of force, which is, legally, the sole domain of governments.
    – Feckmore
    Jul 7, 2009 at 1:39

I wouldn't want to be the one drawing an explicit line in the sand as there are always edge cases. However, I would recommend to users to remember that they are creating an image of themselves by what they post, so be wise about what you choose to put out there.


*Puts on the joke hat*

Someone put a permanent filter on anything I say, so I can't ******* curse all the ******* time like I used to. *** **** it.

So it's kind of hard to get the rage out. I even have some clbuttic swear words I use.


I don't think swearing using "real" or "fake" swearwords is appropriate on SO. It has been said that swearing shows a lack of vocabulary & using fake terms (IMNSHO) just jars.

Yes we all swear when things don't work as expected, but it doesn't help coherent thought and what you want when posting a question you really need answering it pays to be calm and considered - after all you might miss out some vital piece of information.


I personally don't care if people choose to swear in their questions and answers. I choose to keep my professional cap on when answering or asking questions here, and so my language is the same as that which I use when speaking to colleagues and clients.

I disagree that people should edit other people's posts to remove swearing, as I see this as censorship. We don't need protecting from bad language, and if you are offended by swear words, you should simply avoid the question/answer, make that your protest.

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    If a question/answer is otherwise very good - yet people ignore it for the reasons you give... how does that help people? Jun 29, 2009 at 22:35

Explain to me the difference between this:

This damn thing doesn't work!

and this:

This f**king thing doesn't work!

"F**k" is just a word. Stop imbuing it with some magical power it does not possess.

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    But it does have a magical power, that's what makes it fun to say. It expresses a certain desire to overstep a boundary, and that can be either very satisfying, or very threatening, depending on context and personal stance. Jun 30, 2009 at 7:32
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    In some cultural contexts there is none: they may be equally offensive. it's a good bet that the latter would be offensive in more contexts than the former, though IMO. Personally I wouldn't put either in print.
    – tvanfosson
    Jul 2, 2009 at 15:26
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    It has another magical power: it can trigger automatic bad-word scanners and make the site harder to reach from some workplaces. Dec 21, 2009 at 15:10
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    @Raven, it seems as though you are unaware that while words do not have any implicit magical quality, they do however convey meaning. The meaning of words, while being different for many people, is generally accepted. The "F" word is generally considered rude and... uncouth. Use of it, as well as other profanities and obscenities are considered by many (including the moderators of this community) to be impolite and unacceptable. Dec 21, 2009 at 20:03
  • It's actually an acronym: For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge and would be graffitied above people's heads when they were held in the stocks for having unlawful carnal knowledge. Hmm that got recursive. :)
    – ahsteele
    Dec 21, 2009 at 20:08
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    In the first case the subject is "d&%n thing" which merely describes any object which has been cursed for eternity. In the second case the subject is "f#$king thing" which merely described the object used for f@%king. I'm guessing the two sentences are the same if and only if he's cursed his genitals to eternal damnation for their inopportune impotence. Otherwise they mean completely different things.
    – Pollyanna
    Dec 22, 2009 at 1:01

IMO, what's important is not so much which words people use but how they use them:

Maven is a <expletive> useless tool.

Personal opinion.

Richard is a <expletive> useless tool.

Personal abuse.

  1. If you need to say it, say it. If the best, most accurate and precise way to express yourself employs Anglo-Saxon four-letter words, then use them.
  2. If you don't need to say it, don't say it. People may see your words for the rest of your life. If you would mind future bosses seeing your curse words, don't use them.

I've done some 'fake' cursing in some comments on occasion, but I would not go beyond that. For example, the 'word' frak which was used in the new Battlestar Galactica.

  • 2
    Frak is also a fun word to say! :D
    – Damien
    Jun 29, 2009 at 14:58
  • In the old one, "felderkarb" seemed to have much the same meaning as certain waste products of male cattle. Dec 21, 2009 at 15:11
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    I really don't see the point in using placeholders like "frak" if the intent is to communicate the same meaning as the uncensored word. Either use the actual word, or don't.
    – Dan Dyer
    Dec 21, 2009 at 23:25
  • You seriously don't see the point? One will get deleted, the other will not. Or is this some sort of moral stand for you? Dec 23, 2009 at 6:38

SO keeps my language fairly clean by virtue of being mostly technical discussion.


I don't use any form of profanity on Stack Overflow or in conversation either as a rule. In the event that I swear in life due to anger, frustration, or surprise I consider to be a personal failure as this betrays a certain lack of self-control on my part.

I have noticed that people in general swear for two reasons:

  1. To embellish their point of view.
  2. As an oath that is used in an emotional moment.

I personally find reason #1 to betray a lack of class on the part of the speaker. The English language is blessed with many wonderful and expressive adjectives, nouns, and verbs. These words have been used traditionally to form thoughts that are clearly expressed and inoffensive to even the most sensitive audience. The fact that some people feel the need to embellish their thoughts with profanity betrays either a lack of eloquence on the speaker's part or simply a strong desire to assert their cultural independence.

Whatever the reason, it doesn't mean that anyone has a right to their language on a website that they do not own. Private entities have the right to limit free speech within their boundaries. If someone was in my home and was using language that I considered to be inappropriate in front of my family I would make a decision to deprive that person of their free speech within my home and they would be asked to leave. As much as that person would dislike this it doesn't change the fact that the ruling authority made a decision and they have no choice but to live with it.

The ruling authority of Stack Overflow is the community will. If the community chooses to censor profanity then that is the way that it is. Users who care more about swearing then contributing to Stack Overflow will go elsewhere. If they choose to stay then they forfeit their right to complain about the censorship. Surely the right to swear cannot be that important!

No one is interested in censoring what anyone else has to say, only the manner in which you choose to say it. Profanity-laced writing can be easily sanitized without loss of expression.

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    F**k class. What good does it do? The language I use to make my point in no way affects the validity (or not) of my argument. (And you're wrong. The ruling authority of SO is Jeff Atwood.) Dec 22, 2009 at 0:47
  • So if I understand you correctly you don't have any good reason to swear at all (since as you say it in no way affects the validity of your argument). Why would you go to the trouble to pepper your thoughts with unnecessary words? Dec 22, 2009 at 13:45
  • As for "f**k class", you couldn't have done a better job of making my point for me. :) Dec 22, 2009 at 13:49
  • Re: "Why would [I use]... unnecessary words?" Because we're arguing about f*cking censorship. It's inevitable that, in any argument about censorship, you'll have to address profanity, and even more so in an argument about censoring profanity. And, since it's an argument, there will be people arguing against censoring profanity, and it would be hypocritical of them to censor their arguments against censorship (like I have to, because we lost because the ruling authority of the site is Jeff Atwood, which you're still wrong about). Dec 23, 2009 at 0:40
  • I understand why you say that Jeff is the ruling authority - I was merely referring to the ability of the community to condone or accept profanity through the editing process. Jeff is not solely responsible for every sanitizing edit on the site - the community is. If the community as a majority tends to edit out profanity then the "ruling authority" has spoken (if you follow me). As for the rest of what you just said I really didn't follow it at all. Are you saying that you feel compelled to curse more than usual because this is a discussion about profanity? Dec 23, 2009 at 3:41