Personally I don't like to be censored and every now and then I like to curse. It is clear that insults and belittling of others it NOT tolerable. But how about using terms like the system is "fucked up"?

I can keep my mouth in check if I have to, but I see forbidding some kinds of language just because someone doesn't like to hear it as censorship. As Keith Thompson put it in SO's meta:

Are there well defined rules for which words are considered expletives and which are not? If not, how the heck are we supposed to avoid them?

We don't want Newspeak, do we?

After all my cursing as long as it does not insult people personally and belittles them just reflects on me. If people think I'm unprofessional because of that I'm okay with it. But it doesn't change the quality or usefulness of the help I provide so just don't see why.


7 Answers 7


I generally edit them out when I come across them, but I don't go hunting for them.

Are expletives (cursing, swear words or vulgar language) allowed on SE sites?

  • 5
    @con-f-use that's two different subject matters. Talking about Adult Content, in this case Pornography, and actually using explicit words don't equate. As the meta post said, you can explain what you need to about an issue without using foul language. The Meta.AU question was about censoring/removing posts which talked about how to access or view Pornographic material in Ubuntu. Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 16:50
  • But it kind of renders the "family friendly" argument invalid and what remains is prohibiting people from communicating in a way that suits their personality. It is restricting free speech. And I can also explain what I want to say without using the words "but" and "loss", although that would be bereavement (and sometimes shift my meaning).
    – con-f-use
    Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 16:59
  • 3
    Did you notice that comments that have known swears get automatically deleted when you flag them?
    – Mateo
    Commented Aug 11, 2012 at 1:24

A few disjointed points from my thoughts:

  1. Profanity isn't required to say something. You can communicate your message without the profanity. If you can't, you're probably not saying anything.

  2. ... But I'd be a hypocrite if I claimed I never swore. I swear like a drunk pirate and I'm sure some of those drip through into my posts here. I'm saying accidents happen and there's clearly going to be a line when the conduct of a user goes from being a silly post to flagrant abuse.

  3. We can keep on top of abuse with tools like: http://data.stackexchange.com/ubuntu/query/57032/posts-that-contain-awesome-words

  4. Editing it out is completely fine but do it properly. In my mind, replacing a few letters for asterisks does nothing - and that's the point of it. It allows people to post "f**k" but read "fuck". It's completely silly so if you're going to edit out "fuck", make sure you're doing things properly.

  5. If a post is just a rant, flag it up and we'll nuke it from orbit.

  6. Intercourse the penguin!

  • 1
    1.) Neigther are words "but" and "and". 3.) If someone feels insulted he could use those tools - in my book there existence is an argument for allowing harmless profanity 4.) and 5.) Seconded 6.) Why is it not written in Python!?
    – con-f-use
    Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 17:05
  • vwls r nt rqrd t sy smthng. 1 cn cmmnct yr msg wtht vwls. (Though I agree with 2-5. Apparently 6 is a video link, so no go, there.)
    – belacqua
    Commented Aug 7, 2012 at 20:29

I think the discussion has been distracted by a red herring. It's not about whether the site is family-friendly or should we be offended, etc. The question is really about whether using profanity helps in a forum for technical computer assistance or not.

Most things aren't neutral; they either help or detract from the overall mission. Sometimes people ask why others are such grammar-nazis and try to create a debate about whether it's wrong or right to correct people's grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Just like here, that's the wrong topic for discussion. Those things help make questions and answers clearer and more useful. That's why people do it. Or at least, that's why people should do it.

To use an example in the question, does it really help to describe a system as "fucked up"? Isn't it better to actually describe the situation in a less vague manner? Like "I only get a blank screen"? Of course, the person asking may get to these details later, but my point is, does throwing in profanity usually make things clearer? In my experience, profanity doesn't. We're talking about computer stuff. Would you rather have "Don't use this command or it will fuck up your account" or "Don't use this command because it will delete your access to the account, although all data will remain and is actually backed up daily." Again, maybe someone saying the former will eventually get to the usual info, but we should value conciseness. Get to the point. We don't need a prelude of profanities to the actual useful info and we certainly don't need profanity laced into the useful info.

This also highlights another problem with profanity. Usually it indicates a lack of control on the part of the speaker. It suggests the person is letting emotion get the better of them and that the advice is somehow less objective. Now, some people, I'm sure, think they just use profanity everywhere unemotionally, e.g. "Would you fucking like to eat some fucking cereal? We have fucking Cheerios and fucking Fruit fucking Loops." Yeah ok, fine. Such people have entirely forgotten the point of profanity. Since most people have not, communication is now fraught with potential for misunderstanding. For example, I could take the neutral statement about cereal and believe that the person thinks eating cereal is stupid or that they don't like Cheerios. Such confusion is natural when profanity is now being used generically for no purpose other than to fill in pauses in a sentence.

To make a long answer short: yes, profanity does "change the quality or usefulness of the help I provide". Give me an example of the help you provide and I am pretty sure I can improve the quality by removing things like "the system is fucked up" and replacing it with something clearer.


To quote the SE answer which has 63 upvotes for "No, expletives are not allowed":

Expletives are not acceptable behavior on meta or any other Stack Overflow site. If you can't effectively communicate what you need to say without resorting to lowest common denominator cursing, then keep it to yourself.

I agree with this. I think that Ask Ubuntu shoudl be family-friendly, which is why when I happened to stumble across your use of the f word, i edited your answer to make it more family-friendly. I didnt go hunting for it, and I am sorry you took it as censorship, but... well... points at the meta.SO post

  • 3
    And the beautiful thing about it, is that we could still be friends despite differing opinions on that matter.
    – con-f-use
    Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 17:01

Just my thoughts:

I occasionally curse, but I wouldn't start dropping F-Bombs or include profanity in a expletive type of phrasing. Some may disagree, but I may occasionally say something like:

This is how that goes and it's crap.

To be fair calling something crap isn't really offensive to most people. Some may not even consider it profane.

  • 1
    But that's a reason against forbidding offensive language isn't it. If there is no definite rule on what's a curse the why the heck make a rule against it and who decides what is appropriate language and what not. We don't want Newspeak, do we?
    – con-f-use
    Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 17:20
  • 1
    Maybe voting could be useful?
    – nanofarad
    Commented Aug 4, 2012 at 18:05
  • Double plus good.
    – Mateo
    Commented Aug 4, 2012 at 22:26

If by Newspeek, you mean a common form of professional and technical language that limits what is acceptable to say, and promotes understandable speech, then Yes we are using a form of Newspeak, although hardly a form that gets to George Orwell extremes.

Some examples of how we refine what is said on the site-

So, Is this bad thing? In our case it is all about making a friendly and helpful site, and to promote understanding. From 1984 -

It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.


Just as opinion .

Ask Ubuntu is about getting help for Ubuntu, used by All the age-groups and most importantly all over world with different Languages. So the code of ethics, behaviour and Interpretation of cursing varies with every age-group and continents.

It actually comes down to what the OP or other Users interpret it , which is hard to guess. Which is why i think profanity is avoided as long as possible.

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