Linguist, lexicographer, writer, editor, broadcaster

Unprintable language? WTF?

Here’s a statement with which I almost completely disagree. It’s from a footnote on the first page of John Lancaster Riordan’s article “American Naval ‘Slanguage’ in the Pacific in 1945,” from California Folklore Quarterly, Oct. 1946, vol. 5, no. 4, p. 375.

The employment of unprintable language represents an attempt to be manly—”one of the boys.” It indicates indolence of thought and an egregious lack of originality. Moreover, it is generally characterized by dreary repetitions and references to the bodily functions which are completely foreign to the subject concerned.

Was there ever a clearer statement that someone should not be in the business of recording or writing about slang? The witless word “slanguage” in the title is the first tip-off, though. I don’t care which dictionaries include it as an entry, it’s permanently on my list of loathed words—and it is a marker for indolent thought itself.

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Grant Barrett