After "What is the difference between 'tits' and 'boobs'?" being censored, it's the turn of "What does 'suck it up ho' means?" to be sanitized. I think we need to come to a consensus.

So, what should we do?

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I think it is good to come to a consensus as well. I am really struggling right now to find the right balance between leaving things totally uncensored and becoming Urban Dictionary. –  Kosmonaut Jan 20 '11 at 14:48
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On a side note, another frustrating thing is that "suck it up ho" isn't even really an expression. The question isn't very well formed. I find it somewhat embarrassing to have such a poor-quality question on the site — but because it is using taboo language, I am worried about the reaction if I close it as "not a real question". –  Kosmonaut Jan 20 '11 at 16:40
    
@Kosmonaut: I agree with you in that it's a poor question, but you should apply that standard a bit more uniformly. Many questions ask two many things at once as well and don't get closed or edited. –  Borror0 Jan 20 '11 at 16:44
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Suck it up ho is an expression in general usage, it's just that it's slang and regional. I wouldn't teach it in an English 101 class, but it definitely has usage. Just like "hella" ;) –  jcolebrand Jan 20 '11 at 17:15
    
I don't think that the question should be closed because it asks too many things at once, but because it is asking about something that I have never heard, with no reference, and no reason to connect the two. However, we do tell people who ask two questions at once to split their questions. And all sorts of questions get edited for clarity, spelling, and other reasons, at the discretion of mods and users with enough privileges. I have stated elsewhere that I think the "tits and boobs" question is just fine as written. –  Kosmonaut Jan 20 '11 at 19:41
    
I wouldn't censor the tits and boobs question. I would delete it. Without context, the answer is obvious, and is therefore not a real question. The idea that censoring a title is some kind of compromise is ridiculous. The title should be specific to aid searches, and if the question is real, the title should not be censored. –  Marcus Adams Jan 10 '12 at 21:20

4 Answers 4

We shouldn't censor a question's title.

Ideally, all StackExchange questions should have a concise and informative title. Obviously, it shouldn't be unnecessarily wordy but one should have a good idea of what the question is from the title alone. The new sanitized titles fail in that regard.

Making a question's title less informative doesn't seem like it's in congruence with StackExchange's goal of creating The Wikipedia of Long Tail English Language Questions.

In fact, if our role model is Wikipedia, then we should proudly oppose such censorship.

Wikipedia contains images which many find objectionable. When the founder of Wikipedia tried to censor some images after criticism by Larry Sanger, the community of Wikipedia reacted strongly and which then caused Jimmy Wales to renounce many of the permissions granted by his founder status as a response:

Mr Wales has faced criticism from the band of volunteers who help to maintain the site, some of whom argued that the decision to delete was undemocratic and taken too quickly. They also expressed concerns that valid material might be deleted accidentally.

On Sunday, in response, Jimmy Wales voluntarily revoked many of the "permissions" given to him as Wikipedia's founder, to delete and edit "protected" content on Wikimedia Commons.

In a message to the Wikimedia Foundation mailing list he said this was "in the interest of encouraging this discussion to be about real philosophical/content issues, rather than be about me and how quickly I acted".

I understand why some might not uncomfortable by some words or expression but, if that's the issue, we can simply enforce the use of the tag.

Users who take issue with the language found in those question's title can simply add the tag to their ignored tags.

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I guess the question is (and I honestly don't know the answer), do articles with offensive terms or taboo subjects show up on the "Featured Article" section or elsewhere on the main page of Wikipedia? Because it is not the questions that I am worried about, it is the front page and the casual user. –  Kosmonaut Jan 20 '11 at 14:52
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Questions tagged as [tag-vulgar] should then be ommited from what feeds or default views? –  jcolebrand Jan 20 '11 at 16:55
    
@drachenstern: Actually, my idea is, should the offensive wording just be omitted from the title? I don't actually think it should be omitted from prominent places, just that the Wikipedia argument doesn't totally apply unless Wikipedia features taboo articles ("feature" in the sense of prominent placement). –  Kosmonaut Jan 20 '11 at 17:30
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Wikipedia doesn't stop the title from having a vulgar word (see masturbation) –  jcolebrand Jan 20 '11 at 17:34
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@drachenstern: Yes, but there is no relationship to titles and the kind of content that is on the front page/advertised on other sites/etc. The analogy just doesn't work. –  Kosmonaut Jan 20 '11 at 19:42

I think censoring a question's title, when done in a careful way, is the best compromise between allowing taboo topics to be discussed (which I firmly support) and keeping the casual user from equating this site with Urban Dictionary.

Having a vulgar tag is not a sufficient solution. Casual readers probably do not have tags hidden on the site. And the "tits" and "boobs" question made it onto the MultiCollider, which means all sorts of casual people run across it. I think taboo topics are more likely to get pushed up like this because they usually generate some amount of controversy.

Having a vulgar tag with added functionality that keeps the question out of places like the MultiCollider or the front page is another possibility, but I don't think it is a good one. There are many people who want to know that such a topic is posted and want to read about it. I don't think such questions should be in a hidden place that is unknown to the general public.

If you take a question like "what's the difference between 'tits' and 'boobs'?" and change it to "what's the difference between slang terms for breasts", there is not even the slightest doubt about the content of the question. Anyone who sees it can ignore it as they choose, and anybody who clicks on it and sees the words has no justification for getting offended.

Now, the title for "suck it up ho" is more difficult to formulate such that the content is crystal clear, but that is partly because it is such a poor question, about a phrase that nobody ever says. (Personally I think the question should be closed.)

I understand that titles should be as informative as possible. Surely there can be a reasonable caveat to that, where one can make the title as informative as possible without resorting to vulgar language in the title itself?

Personally, I am completely in favor of good questions about taboo subjects. I am not bothered by vulgar question titles. But I think that keeping the question title clean is a good compromise that does not require a technical solution and doesn't hide these questions in a dark alley either.

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I agree that the title edits help considerably and I think this is the correct course of action –  Jeff Atwood Jan 20 '11 at 20:33
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Perhaps we can propose a "vulgarity alert" convention akin to "spoiler alert". –  John Satta Jan 20 '11 at 21:10
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The oddest thing about this is that no one who flagged or downvoted the breast slang question is speaking up. We're left speculating about their intentions. –  Borror0 Jan 20 '11 at 22:46
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@borr That was my primary complaint!! –  jcolebrand Jan 20 '11 at 23:24
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@Borror0: It's quite frustrating, considering how many downvotes there were. –  Kosmonaut Jan 21 '11 at 12:36
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I disagree with this reasoning behind censoring question titles: I don't see the harm in offending sensitive users. I believe this should be a place to objectively ask and answer questions about the English language. Any type of censorship discourages certain types of questions. –  Evan Kroske Jan 26 '11 at 6:22
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@Evan Kroske: The question itself can have any content. Having the title censored can keep the question from attracting controversy and a mass of downvotes and flags. It allows the discussion to be more academic and less charged, because only those who are interested are participating. The questions and answers themselves undergo no censorship, so the question can be asked exactly as the author intends. I don't see how this makes it in any way difficult for people to ask such questions. In particular, the title can be edited by mods — questions that fail to censor titles won't be deleted. –  Kosmonaut Jan 26 '11 at 15:03

Proposal: (needs work admittedly)

A question regarding the usage or origin of slang may be considered acceptable if there is a prevailing or demonstrable requirement to define the slang or to provide it's origin.

In the case of trying to understand a local colloquialism (the use of slang), usage of the original statement, including contextual clues from the surrounding conversation, should be given (cited?) in the question. Failing to do so would deem the question unanswerable, and subject to be closed.

I realize the point of this question is in regards to question titles, but if the question body is no better than the title (in terms of vulgarity) then the title alone won't suffice to keep the question or make it reasonable. Having a clean title and a crap question doesn't make the question palatable. So while this answer may not fit here exactly, it's a close fit and somewhere for this to be voiced.


Examples:

For instance, the boobs vs tits would've been acceptable had it been presented as thus:

I have a coworker who's constantly talking about girls boobs and tits. He works in the US, and I work in {insert other country here}. What is the difference in those two terms? I know they refer to breasts, but why?

For instance, the "suck it up ho" might have been acceptable had it been presented as thus:

I continuously hear films or youtube videos telling people to "suck it up ho" and I don't understand what this line means. The context tells me it should mean to deal with a problem, but what is the meaning of this phrase?

Thus making the questions more "academic" and less "urban dictionary".


That's my interjection in this debate. Comments, questions, rude remarks?

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I agree with this approach to taboo subjects, and some version of this (if people agree with it) should go in the FAQ. –  Kosmonaut Jan 20 '11 at 17:08
    
This could be a workable criterion. The only thing I'd like to know is: why does more background make a question OK that was bad before? What is the deeper goal behind this? –  Cerberus Jan 20 '11 at 22:41
    
@Cerberus So my thought process is like this: If you just toss an question into a system and hope to get an answer out, that's ... ok. I mean, it's just a question, and it wasn't like you necessarily had an interest in it, it was just fluff, just a thing. You could live without it. You're not invested, necessarily. ~~ If you take time to formulate the question and give background and ... invest yourself in the question, then all of a sudden it's not just fluff. I know I'm missing something key to this definition, but there's something about a quality [question|answer] takes time. (continued) –  jcolebrand Jan 20 '11 at 22:52
    
@Cerberus (continued) However, junk doesn't take nearly as long, and while it's nice to have instant gratification, that isn't the goal of this site. We want to have people asking legitimately useful questions, we want to have people using this site for loftier goals than Urban Dictionary. One of the comments made on my question about why was the slang question closed was that they wanted to make sure that this was a direction that was sane for the community. SOIS doesn't want this to be another Yahoo Answers. I'm trying to find one of the rules that helps define things so it's not. –  jcolebrand Jan 20 '11 at 22:54
    
@Drachenstern: I considered that this might have been your underlying goal. So what about this: a question that does not evince some effort or dedication by its asker gets removed? Is that the essence of what bothers most people about such questions? I will read up on the principles behind SE and E.SE in particular, because it still feels like a mysterious hole; people's responses keep puzzling me. I will start with some of the links Borror gives below. If you have any other good explanation or summary of principles, I'd be glad to read it. –  Cerberus Jan 20 '11 at 23:15
    
@Cerberus ~ maybe I'm spoilt from too much time on SO but that is the prevailing mood on SO. Have you seen this by the way? english.stackexchange.com/questions/how-to-ask –  jcolebrand Jan 20 '11 at 23:23
    
@Drachenstern: I have seen it before. But it is not very specific. But thanks; I will browse and learn around for a bit. –  Cerberus Jan 20 '11 at 23:26
    
@Cerberus ~ Sorry, I responded on that from my iPhone, I've been /afk. The thing is, that page asks for the author to provide context: But if you give us details and context, we can provide a useful answer. and then if you've not read Jon Skeets article you should. It's linked in the right hand margin on that link I provided earlier. Granted his entry is about writing for SO, but it really does pertain to all SE sites. That's the only other link I normally push at people, besides "how-to-ask". Cheers. –  jcolebrand Jan 21 '11 at 1:19
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@Drachenstern: That is an excellent guide for asking questions, thank you. But it focuses more on why it is good for the asker than why it is good for the site; that is, it says "your question will be most effective thus and so", instead of "your question will be closed if you don't do this and that". I mean, some more specific rules—that's what they are, rules, if breaking them means getting your question closed—would be good, illustrated by examples. Perhaps we could write such a rule on required context for English.SE, in addition to the specific don'ts that are already made explicit. –  Cerberus Jan 21 '11 at 1:59

Deciding that certain words are taboo and mincing the titles is antithetical to a serious academic treatment of legitimate questions. Such censorship makes this site less mature, not more. It also hinders learning, which is the main purpose of the site.

Medical professionals deal with taboo topics all the time. If a doctor or nurse used euphemisms to avoid socially taboo terms, you would likely question their professionalism. I would consider English.SE censoring shitsh*t to be analogous to a gynecologist saying "vajayjay" instead of "vagina".

English.SE should take a clinical approach and treat all words as valid topics for discussion, provided that the question meets usual quality standards. A better way to prevent Urban Dictionary-type questions would be to close them as "off-topic: general reference" or invent a new "off-topic: non-standard English" closure reason.

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Anything goes in the question and answer contents for the reasons you say treating things clinically. However the rest of the world may not be so clinical; the titles are very public, and so those are the things that are 'minced'. The public face is not vulgar but leads to the somewhat more detached content in an publicly acceptable manner. –  Mitch May 19 at 13:46

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