Linguist, lexicographer, writer, editor, broadcaster

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