in reply to How clean is your code

I don't understand why 5 or 6 particular 4-character combinations from the nearly 1/2 a million possible create such a stir.

It's not the just the sight or sound of them of them else chit, cult, buck, pass and a host of others would also be deemed offensive.

Mostly, I don't think people are offended, rather they take offense.


Examine what is said, not who speaks.
"Efficiency is intelligent laziness." -David Dunham
"Think for yourself!" - Abigail
Timing (and a little luck) are everything!

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Re: Re: How clean is your code
by Anonymous Monk on Feb 14, 2004 at 08:18 UTC
    I don't understand why 5 or 6 particular 4-character combinations from the nearly 1/2 a million possible create such a stir.
    That's like saying: I don't know why the sequence rm -rf * should cause such a stir. As a programmer, you are quite familiar with semantics, so your purported lack of understanding smacks of careless wit rather than a serious enquiry.

      Au contraire. If it all came down to semantics, then close mis-spellings like fcuk, sh1t and others would still be offensive even though the syntax is wrong. The first of the preceeding has appeared in 4 ft high letters on the High Streets of every major town and city across the UK for something like 20 years. No-one is offended.

      Equally, if semantics is the key, then the euphemisms used in various long standing 'kiddies favourite', Saturday morning staple TV shows, like F o o l! (and punk!, and sucka!) or smeg or smeghead or Frikkin' or Freakin' would all be deemed equally offensive.


      Examine what is said, not who speaks.
      "Efficiency is intelligent laziness." -David Dunham
      "Think for yourself!" - Abigail
      Timing (and a little luck) are everything!
        Au contraire. If it all came down to semantics, then close mis-spellings like fcuk, sh1t and others would still be offensive even though the syntax is wrong.

        Syntax is structural: rules of arranging symbols (grammar). It doesn't make sense to say that "fcuk" exhibits incorrect syntax: it is a syntactically correct but currently undefined symbol. Sometimes such an undefined symbol can gain some semantic currency due to resemblance (auditory and/or textual) to an existing symbol, but in most such cases the relationship is not synonomous.

        Semantics, in natural languages, is always contextual. And meaning is not static, which is why etymology can be interesting and important, but doesn't specify current usage. "Frikkin" may be historically connected to another word that many people would find offensive, yet they don't necessarily find "frikkin" offensive. And "$@#&*S!!" is really just a generic symbolism for offensive curse words originating in children's comics.

        We humans are marvelously semantic creatures. We accept "frikkin" as a less offensive generic term, even if there is an undeniable linkage to a more specific (and offensive) term. Note, "Frick You" just doesn't make sense. Why? Someone who really means the specific wouldn't substitute the generic form. My point? "Frikkin" isn't less offensive because it has a less offensive spelling, or a less offensive sound, but because it has a less offensive semantic meaning. And I mean "less" in the subtractive sense: the very act of substituting a word like "freakin" or "frikken" for a word that we all *know*, takes away the specific nature of the substituted word. "Frikken" simply isn't a synonym for the word it is standing in for, and the fact that it isn't makes all the semantic difference.