April 20, 2004


by Nick Morgan

I appreciate a good cuss word as much as the next fellow, and "shit" is especially valuable for humor, but I'm not about to challenge FCC regulations for reasons that Matt Yglesias puts forward:

    The problem with having people say "shit" on television is, or so I hear, that it's "bad for the children." But what's bad about well [sic]? Well, I suppose that if children hear people saying "shit" all the time on TV that might encourage them to go around saying "shit" more often. And that would be bad, because it's often inappropriate to say "shit." But if everyone said "shit" regularly, then there would be nothing inappropriate about saying it. The word's inappropriateness is a matter of pure convention, not a magical intrinsic attribute of the syllable. So if we heard "shit" on TV all the time, people might start saying "shit" all the time and there wouldn't be a problem with hearing "shit" on TV. See what I mean?

That would be pretty funny, but our profanity conventions aren't about to collapse under a revolution in children's vernacular. Parents and teachers, of course, would punish "shit" talkers, and even sympathizers with Matt's view, I imagine, would hesitate to take the first step by using "shit" more freely than is appropriate. Such is the self-enforcing power of conventions, even when there's no intrinsic basis. If everyone, all at once, agreed to liberate "shit" from its stigma, I suppose that'd be nice, but I don't think the FCC has that kind of power. And maybe, if everyone was doing it, we'd all agree that a friendly pat on the face should replace the handshake, but I'm not about to start an interview by touching some guy's face.

UPDATE: ubiquitous "shit" saying is exactly the scenario in the South Park episode I'm watching right now. Catch the rerun if you can.

April 20, 2004 08:40 PM | TrackBack

...and, like the kids said on South Park, the more you use it, the more power you take away from the word. It might sound a bit corny, but culturally curse words are meant to be offensive and they serve a linguistic purpose. Why undermine that purpose to make it just another word?

Posted by: Brian at April 20, 2004 10:32 PM

Don't forget that in the particular South Park episode you mention, saying "shit" was actually a *curse* word ... bringing a curse upon mankind when it was said too often. That is why, until this season (the ninja episode) no character said "shit" after the demon was defeated.

Whew, long explanation for a cartoon.

Posted by: Ryan Jensen at April 20, 2004 11:03 PM

166 times...sweet.

Anyone who doesn't think so must have sand in their vagina.

Posted by: Centrist at April 21, 2004 01:35 AM

Speaking of shit talkers...

Posted by: Rick at April 21, 2004 01:39 AM

As long as we're talking about South Park solutions, why not just institute the V-chip? :)

Posted by: A. Rickey at April 21, 2004 01:51 AM

"You don't know S**t from Shinola." So let's substitute Shinola in that South Park episode. What's in a word, S**t by any other name still smells like S**t.

Posted by: Shag from Brookline at April 21, 2004 07:17 AM

The class "shit/shinola" distinction speech can be seen in the Steve Martin classic: "The Jerk."

Posted by: Brian at April 21, 2004 02:47 PM

"If everyone, all at once, agreed to liberate "shit" from its stigma, I suppose that'd be nice..."

I am just repeating that because I like the way that the phrase "liberate 'shit' from its stigma" sounds.

While I am here ("here" being the comments box), I'll concur with the other posters who seemed to enjoy "South Park". What a quality movie that was.

Posted by: Sean S at April 21, 2004 03:05 PM

thats dumb ! no matter what little kids are gonna cuz no matter how hard their parents tell them not to you see "shit" on TV outside in schools and even from parents

Posted by: liz at June 16, 2005 03:16 AM

The 69 help line in sex scandal

A British help line called Sheffield Gayphone are being laughed at for putting on their website ‘WE DON’T OFFER SEXUAL SERVICES’ and having a telephone number ending in 6969.

The help line which receives £2000 a year from tax payers money and a £10,000 lottery grant has been slammed for being too over funded.

The help line brings shame on the city and takes tax payers money too. Over funded, Complaints of Sexual Harassment and a dirty telephone number and they try to call it a ’help line’


Posted by: Chastity at August 27, 2005 03:36 PM

Well I think this helpline Sheffield Gayphone is sick and should be closed down by the police. How can they continue with all this shame and friends have told me that they sexually harras people.


Posted by: nicky at September 27, 2005 04:37 PM

The V-chip was instituted you ignorant shit head

Posted by: shit at June 29, 2006 12:34 AM
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