Forbidden words: What would Mark Twain say?

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Caution: Any euphemisms in this post are included only for the purpose of discouraging their use elsewhere. If you are easily offended by real words used by real people, please avert your eyes. Go read this instead.

You can’t say I didn’t warn you.

Say what you mean

WTF. This was useful in writing at one point as a short, hackneyed substitute for an equally overused phrase. Often favored for its brevity and effectiveness in tight spaces, such as Twitter, it is overdue for retirement.

It went from useful to ridiculous a few months ago, when Keith Olbermann killed it by awkwardly verbalizing it during an MSNBC broadcast, saying, “Double-u tee eff.” He wasn’t fooling anyone, of course, but technically avoided using what too many others coyly refer to as “the f word.”

Cowardly behavior, of which I would not normally accuse Olbermann. Worse yet, it didn’t work.

Similarly, Mark Twain might have laughed – or, more likely, shook his head – over extensive use of the term “the n word” as commentators discussed the recent misguided perversion of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Failing to say “nigger” even as they tried to make the case for leaving the word in the classic text diminished their own argument. It is in the book as published, and it is part of history.

It is not a word to fear.

It is a vile word. I recall saying it only once in my life. I discourage others from using it, as I do with any other racial slur. Still, it is only a word. When discussing it and its use in literature, we shouldn’t be afraid to use it.

F word. N word. It is time to do away with these childish absurdities.

Say what you mean, or say nothing at all.

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