# Should we censor language names?

My most recent challenge was recently edited to change a certain language's name to Brainf**k (i.e. censor it). I decided I might want some community input before I rolled it back, so, my question is:

Should we f***ing censor the f***ing names of f***ing programming languages?

Programming language names should, technically, not be modified. On the other hand, this language contains a word almost universally considered to be vulgar.

What does the community think?

• Here is what people on MSO think about the topic. The question is whether our specific community agrees with it, and to what extent. Comments welcome! – Chris Jester-Young Mar 2 '14 at 4:30
• @ChrisJester-Young Yep, I've read that, and 1.) there appears to be little/no consensus, and 2.) yes, I wanted a site-specific answer. (off-topic: mind taking a look at my most recent meta post? thanks ;)) – Doorknob Mar 2 '14 at 5:05
• “Obscenity is whatever gives the judge an erection”. I'm not sure whether the problem is with the language name or those who imagine dirty things when read it. To me that “fuck” precisely describes the mental status after trying for a couple of hours to code something in BrainFuck. – manatwork Mar 2 '14 at 12:06
• I once made a site for a guy which had "Fuck" as a surname. He had a store called "Fuck Autopeças", which translates to "Fuck Autoparts". This, of course, in a country where Fuck is not a swear word. Should we censor people names too? – Victor Stafusa Mar 2 '14 at 20:19
• Would it be possible to rename the language so we don't have this problem? – user10766 Mar 3 '14 at 2:22
• You can see my take for Stack Overflow on display at the other end of Chris' link. With CodeGolf I'm a little wishy-washy simple because this is a recreational site and most of you probably shouldn't be using it from work anyway. But I am a little concerned about the whole of the StackExchange.com domain being tagged for filtering by content we post here... – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Mar 3 '14 at 3:50
• @user2509848 It's only been named that way for two decades... – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Mar 3 '14 at 3:52
• I didn't think it would be possible. – user10766 Mar 3 '14 at 3:53
• english.stackexchange.com/questions/155664/… – Victor Stafusa Mar 6 '14 at 6:45
• Meatb*lls are delicious. I'll let this comment speak for itself. – Kendall Frey Mar 6 '14 at 20:19
• @Kendall That is a m*ssive exaggeration... – Doorknob Mar 6 '14 at 20:39

## Obscenity is in the intent, not the word

For example, have I told you about my cock?

It is a fine cock, very big and very red.

Here is a picture of it, taken by the people at Encyclopedia Britannica:

Rhode Island Red cock

I invite you to visit their site and notice how they have captioned the picture. They use the same text that I did here. They also use it in the URL.

As an educational site, they have recognized that the word "cock" may be offensive in some instances when used with offensive intent, but it is not an inherently offensive word.

Offense is not in the word, but in how the word is applied, and toward what end.

For example, my first two sentences may be argued to edge dangerously close to the edge between pedagogical provocation and intentional offense. However, it is impossible for me to know how offensive I have truly been because offense can be achieved by intent on the part of both the giver and the receiver of the offense. Though I may have no intent to offend you, you may still intend to take offense.

To have a civil society, we need to minimize two things: the intentional giving of offense, and the intentional receiving of it. We need warm hearts with thick skins.

Or as one respondent to the linked thread quoted from the SO FAQ, "Be nice," but also "Bring your sense of humor."

Did the creators of Brainfuck mean some offense to the world when they chose that name? Possibly. But I do not believe we repeat that intent by using the name here. Here, it is merely a signifier, a tool we use to ensure we are talking about the same thing.

If we start censoring our signifiers, that impairs our educational value by making it more difficult to understand what is signified. Meanwhile, we actually add to the aura of offensive power around the word by treating it as offensive when it is being used in the most benign manner it can possibly be used.

I feel no worse using it to signify a programming language than I would asking a random stranger "hand me that fanny pack" and finding out he/she was British.

It is just--to use Brainfuck parlance--a pointer.

• I'd also like to point out that censorship does not prevent offense especially if the intent is there. For example, if person A got particularly pissed at person B and decided to offend the person, A can go, "Fck you, you sck monkey d*ck." and it will still be offensive. The censorship does not make it any less offensive. Now, if person A meant that as a joke but person B didn't bring his sense of humor, it's the same thing. The censorship does not make it any less offensive. Now second case, but person B had a sense of humor, the lack of censorship doesn't make it offensive. – jaybz Jul 23 '14 at 5:56
• (broken link....) – user202729 May 21 '18 at 4:31

### No.

For those, who have already seen the word, censorship achieves nothing. They will know what word is meant, even if it's censored to mere F* (or even ****). Censorship only draws attention to that word and to the fact the language name contains a dirty word.

For those, who haven't seen the word yet (as if there were any), the context of the language name does not indicate that it should contain a swearword they might like to learn. Sure, the first half is a sensible word (but so is "lung" in "zwerglung"$), so they might be interested in what the second half means, but, searching for the censored word yields just as many 100 times as many results as searching for its uncensored version. One might argue "but, the censorship warns the kids that they don't want search for that", but really - I don't think it works this way. They want to know the words their friends might like to learn# - if they don't already*. That is, if you tell them it's a swear word. Censorship only draws attention to that word and to the fact the language name contains a dirty word. (%) Yes. I know my footnotes are upside-down (*) The age barrier at StackExchange is 13 years, and the vast majority of our userbase is older than that. The age barrier exists to protect very young kids from swearwords. I guess this is a reason enough to claim that swearwords are not to be particularly feared of at Stack Exchange. Not to mention you will hear the occasional f**k or two on most of the SE chats, too.% (#) this statement is not subject to voting. I still accept disagreement in the comments. ($) I promise. I just made up this word. I didn't know it already exists.

• IMO, trying to hide swearwords to kids is stupid anyway, since most of them are actively trying to learn worse-and-worse swearwords and swearphrases. – Victor Stafusa Mar 2 '14 at 18:45
• @Victor This is exactly what I'm trying to say here ;-) – John Dvorak Mar 2 '14 at 18:55
• I see your point. One of my main concerns for the quality of the site is that if we allow this word on our site, people may start using other words, especially newcomers who don't know the rules. Then, there is the flag system, but that makes more work for moderators... – user10766 Mar 2 '14 at 22:35
• @user2509848 I once made a site for a guy which had "Fuck" as a surname. He had a store called "Fuck Autopeças", which translates to "Fuck Autoparts". This, of course, in a country where Fuck is not a swear word. Should we censor people names too that happen to be swear words in english? – Victor Stafusa Mar 2 '14 at 22:47
• Obviously not. I just hope this doesn't bring in the age where SE turns dirty. – user10766 Mar 2 '14 at 23:01
• (\$) - I don't think it is a word. You seem to be getting the translation for the german phrase *Zwerg* vertei*lung*. Why google thinks it's spanish, I have no idea. If zwerglung were a word, it would be the noun form (i.e. action) associated with the verb zwergeln, which, to my knowlege doesn't exist either (Zergeln, the plural noun, is a word, referring to mini garden gnomes). If anything, perhaps verzwergeln, which would mean something akin to "to be in the process of becoming a dwarf." – primo Jun 19 '14 at 19:03

While the use of uncensored language names doesn't bother me in the least on a personal/moral/whatever basis, it has caused some practical problems for me on a couple occasions. My employer seems to think that websites that contain a disproportionate number of occurrences of the word "f*ck" are obviously pornographic, and serves me a huge banner saying:

# "Your attempt to view this page has be blocked!"

This can sometimes make it difficult to slack off at work and do programming puzzles, and although I doubt my employer ever checks the logs, I wouldn't exactly want to be pulled into a meeting to explain why I had set some sort of record for hitting web filters for pages with the word "f*ck" in them. My immediate boss would laugh her butt off, her boss wouldn't.

• Bad filters are just that: bad filters. Acting on a certain string appearing as part of a word only leads to clbuttic mistakes. For example, I tried using Wolfram|Alpha to approximate a function by a sextic polynomial. I had to use a quintic polynomial instead, since this was at work and the filter didn't like a URL having sex in it. Now, does that mean that Wolfram|Alpha should change the command to s*xtic or that the person that configured the filter is an idiot? – Dennis Mar 7 '14 at 0:32
• @Dennis Yeah I would have to agree, just thought I'd give a different perspective on the question than personal taste. Our filter at work is so bad that when Dick Cheney was VP it blocked a wide swath of new articles because there were too many "dicks" in them... – Comintern Mar 7 '14 at 0:38
• Code Golf is not really a site you are supposed to visit during work :p – ThiefMaster Mar 9 '14 at 19:24
• @Dennis I wholeheartedly agree that bad filters are bad and I believe they are products of incompetence and/or laziness. Unfortunately, that doesn't make the problem any less real. There are lazy people. There are incompetent people. Some of them have "managing web filters" as part of their job description. Lastly, some of us do not have any sort of influence to choose who gets put in that job. I'm against censorship in this specific case and in general, but that doesn't change the fact that censors do exist, and some particularly stupid ones exist as well. – jaybz Jul 23 '14 at 6:08

No, it's just a name. We're not hurting anybody's feelings, are we? If this was school in 1st grade, however, the teachers would prohibit it (because in 1st grade I got in trouble for saying "JackAss"), but again it's just a name. You're not going to ban someone who has profanity in their actual name anyways, right?

If I was a dog breeder I wouldn't care about the connotation of the word "bitch", I would just say "I bred the bitch last night".

I much prefer when offensive words, even in a non-offensive context, are censored. Let me explain why:

• I have not sworn (the worst word I used is crap), ever.
• I never want to swear; not even pronounce the words
• When I read, I pronounce the words in my mind
• When I read swear words, I also pronounce them in my mind before I have the chance to catch myself

Censored words give me the chance to change my mental pronunciation. For example, I can read Brain**** as "Brain-star" or BrainF*** as "BrainF-star". And this sentence from the question here:

Should we f***ing censor the f***ing names of f***ing programming languages?

I can pronounce as:

Should we f-ing censor the f-ing names of f-ing programming languages.

Lastly, censoring does not prevent people from pronouncing it the other way. I agree that censoring does not protect youth from learning the words. However, I feel that it is reasonable to give people a choice in what to use to pronounce words.

• I actually agree in most cases. While I personally believe that words in themselves are not offensive, I do think we should endeavor to make our community respectful of those who do believe so. Doorknob's self-censorship of that sentence was considerate, and I'd hope that outside of a discussion on this topic, most of the time people can get their point across without potentially divisive words, even censored. However, when it comes to the name of a language on a programming site where it is used regularly, I maintain that the reliability of the signifier is too important to be compromised. – Jonathan Van Matre Mar 3 '14 at 23:42
• Of course, if you want yourself to see "brainfuck" censored, you are always welcome to implement this through a userscript. – John Dvorak Mar 7 '14 at 10:53
• @JanDvorak How do I make a userscript? – Justin Mar 7 '14 at 16:54
• @Quincunx, Perhaps you could work out a way to phrase it as a codegolf question :) – gnibbler Jun 16 '14 at 3:59
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Since there is no way to misunderstand it, I'd say it's "BrainF**k" is fine.

I approve of censoring the name of this language. Just because the namer/inventor of this language had a dirty mind means that the universe must follow.

Yes, if necessary, but better is to rename the languages. On the occasion that the esoteric nature of such languages doesn't bring them obnoxiously close to making up your own language, why not just fork the language and improve it by giving it a name that doesn't offend many people by, for example, treating lightly a deep physical expression of love between a husband and wife?

If we could improve JavaScript we would, but backward compatibility prevents us. Languages without real-world code relying on them have no such restriction.