Lenny Bruce was arrested for uttering language in nightclubs that Lewis Black now uses on cable television. A dozen years ago the editor of The Baltimore Sun prohibited use of the verb suck, described in our guidelines manual as “vulgar street language.” Recently an obliging editor* gave The Sun’s sports section the go-ahead to publish wanker in a direct quote.
What’s a mother to do?
On January 12, I will be conducting an audio conference for Copyediting: "Charged Language: Dealing With the Unspeakable in Copy.” It will look into profanity, ethnic slurs, vulgarisms, and circumlocutions, seeking to provide guidance for editors amid shifting standards of propriety.
You’re welcome—encouraged, even—to sign up for the audio conference, but you are also welcome to suggest dimensions of the topic for discussion or offer examples that would be useful to examine.