Monday, August 6, 2012

Hipster [cocksuckers]

Posted By on 08.06.12 at 11:08 AM

A page from the Timess stylebook
  • stockicide
  • A page from the Times's stylebook
On Friday the New York Times brought its obfuscatory editorial approach to swearwords to a hilarious and confusing new level when it made a detour around the word cocksuckers so long that it described the epithet (or, uh, compliment, depending on your POV) as an adjective. The context, inevitably, was a trend piece about the fedora-wearing (seriously) interlopers who are so angering residents of Montauk, New York, that one was moved to post a "diatribe" to the website diehipster.com, which is not, appearances aside, an online community for German hipsters. The complaint read, according to the Times, "You’ve accomplished nothing over the last decade but displaced hard-working families, old-time residents and newly arrived immigrants who do not seek attention like you [Offensive Adjective Inappropriate for Family Newspaper]." Linguist Ben Zimmer, among others, pointed out the error, but sadly the Times has been slow to correct it.

Elsewhere in vulgarity: In June Steve Bogira read John McPhee's lovely New Yorker reminiscence of that august magazine's acceptance of swearwords, which has been slow but sure. And how. Catching up on last week's issue over the weekend I noticed two refreshingly contemporary deployments of the word shit and variants. In Lauren Collins's profile of the artist Tino Sehgal she reports that, regarding Sehgal's highly conceptual work, "the Harvard art historian Benjamin H. D. Buchloh called bullshit." The very next article is about Kip Litton, a dentist-cum-marathon impostor whose elaborate fakeries, writes Mark Singer, "left one in awe of his gift for just making shit up." Some will see all this as evidence of declining standards, but others—teenagers, mostly, and their admirers—will appreciate the levity. I've just begun the next article in the issue, about the political situation in Burma, which I dearly hope Evan Osnos will be describing as a "shitstorm."

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