Linguist, lexicographer, radio host, public speaker

Dreck but no crotchfruit

To listen to the “decorum is declining daily” crowd, you’d think propriety had disappeared from the American media landscape. But it still has a foothold yet.

Jan Freeman writes, “Even when Rosten first issued his caution, nearly 40 years ago, dreck was not truly taboo: The New York Times, which takes a tough line on vulgarity, used it as early as 1967.”

I teased a Times editor recently that they’re all prudes, prigs, and squares over there, because when I submitted my second-annual words-of-the-year list to the New York Times, a different editor declined to include crotchfruit because it was “vulgar.”

Later, I also nominated crotchfruit as the “most outrageous word of the year” in the American Dialect Society’s 16th-annual word-of-the-year vote, a category which it won. Despite the enormous press coverage of that vote, only a handful of newspapers—most notably the Atlanta Journal-Constitution—included the word in their stories. I know I’m over-conditioned to accept nearly all words no matter what their connotations or subtextual invocations, but this outcome surprised me. I would’ve thought it would’ve been in headlines.

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Grant Barrett