Triggered by a single word in Information Architects Japan‘s Reality Check article (“s***”), I started wondering a bit about censorship. (As has John Gruber, recently, but I can’t find the article at this time.)
I hate censorship; there is really no excuse for it. However, I can understand that big media companies want to cater for some narrow-minded, snobbish people, who don’t like the word “fuck”. After all, snobbish people often have loads of money. (As is also touched upon by Gruber, there is one problem with this approach, though: we all know what “f*ck”, “sh*t” and all of their cousins mean; apparently, it’s solely due to the fact that the four letters f, u, c and k are spelled out in that exact order, that is a problem. Swap the u with a *, and everyone’s happy.)
However, why would you decide to censor yourself? One thing is to self-censor, by not saying “fuck” altogether. (Of course, some people don’t even use that word, and that’s fine.) You might have a changing vocabulary, dependent on whom you speak with; I know I have. But this isn’t the case with iA’s — they seem have no problem with the word “shit”, just the spelling of it.
I’m not advocating the use of cursing here. Curse if you want to, don’t curse if you don’t. But if you are to curse — and it can be discussed whether “shit” is a curse word — do it properly. Asterisk censoring always come off looking rather silly, as we’re all fully aware of its meaning. Yes, even the kids. If you don’t want your beautiful site soiled with ugly words, find some other word; asterisks don’t make it pretty.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention my take on the Greasemonkey script, Uncensor the Internet. I love the idea, but not the execution. I installed it in my Firefox, and happily forgot all about it. However, I noticed that on a Danish site I visit often, they would misspell “forkert” (the Danish word for “wrong”) a lot, instead writing “fuckert”. This isn’t an obvious typo, so after seeing it a couple of times, I started wondering. Then it dawned on me, I checked the source for the Uncensor, and indeed, “fork” would be replaced with “fuck”.
This, I couldn’t understand. I know that some people censor “fuck” by writing “fork”, but “fork” is a perfectly legitimate word, and thus should not be translated. I use knives and forks, you know. I fork software projects. This just seemed as an odd rule, one that under any circumstances should be applied context-sensitive, not globally.