Banned words, insults etc.

Is there a list of banned words, insults or such? I did a search of “banned words” and no results. I don’t post much, Mostly I check out the board on weekends, and then occasionally. I would like to stay out of bad graces, but it is tough to follow the rules when you don’t know the rules. In the recent thread about offensive user names many things were mentioned that I had never heard of that are considered offensive. If I had not happenned upon that thread I would have no idea about several terms considered ill-advised, or even banned outside the Pit. I know the general rules, but is there a list of mod rulings that certain things are not tolerated? More importantly, certain words? I had to really chase the thread to find that the mods decided a name change was in order in this case. Why not an upfront post of mod rulings, so all can see and avoid similar situations? Perhaps there is, and I am just ignorant of it, but I have not been able to find such a location.

There is no list. See this post from SDMB admin, C K Dexter Haven. It is probably the best explanation of the reasoning behind the board’s policy and execution that I’ve seen. At least, it made sense to me, and I am both melancholy and hard-headed.

The idea of a listing of moderator rulings is a great idea, but has the problem that it requires work and someone to put it together. I’ll bring it to the attention of the mods, and we’ll discuss and come back on that.

There’s no list of words because we think that forbidding the use of a word is futile, not to say silly. We’re not about censorship. Besides, we want to allow questions like “Where does the word ‘Fuck’ come from?”

What we do prohibit, in terms of words, are personal insults directed against other posters, except in the Pit forum. (See FAQ - Rules for Posting on the SDMB and note Post 10 in that thread. Also, different forum may set different standards.) So, perfectly non-objectionable words can be put together to constitute a person lnsult; and seemingly objectionable words can be the source of interesting discussion (didn’t we just have a long thread about the word “Hottentot”?

We try to maintain a civilized and reasonably well-mannered online community. Most of our posters are quite intelligence. A list of “bad words” woud not be helpufl.

Thanks, I guess the answer is “you will recognise quicksand when you step in it”.
I asked because I had only heard of the term Hottentot once before in my life. It was in a fifties era protest song I heard in the seventies on the Dr. Demento show, protesting nukes. I have no idea who created it, but it went like this:

“We will all go together when we go, every Hottentot and every Eskimo,
No one will have the endurance to collect on thier insurance,
Lloyd’s of London will be loaded when they go!”

If I posted about this song, I have potentially insulted twice, by using the words Hottentot and Eskimo, with no way to know before hand that either term might have been an insult, or previously declared by the mods to be avoided.

My point is that unless I read every thread, and indeed every post ever made on the board, how can I know what is considered offensive? Many things are obvious, and I would never consider using, but if a term I have never heard of is declared offensive, how can I avoid “stepping in it?” I am happy to play by the rules, but would really like to know what the rules are.

I understand that the rules are evolving, but a place to see that evolution would be nice.

I am not asking for a justification of rulings, just a summary of rules. It is obvious that certain terms are ill-advised, but I see the potential to accidentally post using words or terms that have previously been discussed and declared unacceptable, but I wasn’t on-line that week.

Tom Lehrer sang that I think.

Sorry Dexter, my last post was to liberal, I was typing and posted before I saw your post (I type real slow). Your response explained the difficulties involved. Not a perfect world and everything costs money and resources have to be deployed carefully. Maybe the rulling list is just not feasable. Thanks for the response. For my purposes, this thread is done.

Insults work like lawsuits: Anyone can be offended by anything, but you have to convince others to go along with you if your offense is going to be anything more than a meaningless whine. (Of course, a whine whined by the millions is still as whiny, but a whine that big has teeth behind it.) Trivial word lists are stupid because they would completely ignore the mention-use distinction, irony, and comedy. (Comedy stalks tragedy, however, so you still have to convince people that something is funny.) Somewhat more sophisticated lists administered by humans would be a source of insult in their own right. Finally, linguistic drift is so gay! (Prove what I meant by that. Go on, try.)

There are quite a few sources outside the SDMB where such lists have been provided by various individuals and groups but a convenient guideline to follow would be a dictionary’s labeling of a word or phrase as something like obscene, vulgar, offensive, pejorative, or similar cautionary designation. If you may have heard the word or phrase and aren’t sure about its status in those categories, one place I have found helpful is Urban Dictionary which can provide a level of awareness about words and phrases that may have yet to be included in an official word base.

If you have tested the word or phrase in such a reference and have found no hint that it may be a breach of someone’s sensitivity, the best thing to do is to assume it’s okay to use. Once you’re confronted with someone else’s version of its offensiveness, you’ll at least be armed with the information that you have checked what you consider relevant sources. At that point, you can suggest the offended party refer you to some other source you didn’t know about beforehand.

If the offended other can’t do such a thing, maybe the word’s offensiveness is open enough to debate to permit you to use it in spite of its effect on others. Or you can accede to another’s sensitivities and refrain from using it.

Thanks for the advise ZELDAR. It seems like a lot of effort just to post, but that is a discusion for another forum I think.

I am very glad that we don’t have a Cybernanny. So you can’t spell “shit” without it coming
out as “****”; so you just spell it as “sh1t”, and if they make it so that Cybernanny doesn’t
like that combination, then you just come up with another variation (“5h|t”). Pointless.

Just to be clear: we’ve not banned use of the word “Hottentot” any more than we’ve banned the use of other racial slurs. A discussion of the Tom Lehrer song is just fine, as is a discussion of HUCKLEBERRY FINN, even if those discussions involve words that can’t be used against another poster. So, you can discuss the character of Nigger Jim all you want; but you can’t use that word directed against another poster. You can discuss Hottentots in song and literature, but you can’t call another poster one such.


How about tater tots?

Ok, I got it. It is all about context which determines appropriatness. Sounds like a reasonable approach to me. I guess I was confused by MrDibbles argument that context did not matter, and the board’s apparent support of than position. If I am correct, the board’s decision was that a user name has no context, and thus a word is taken literally, the same word in a post is taken in the context of the post. I have no reason to worry about posting using any term or phrase unless I am trying to be insulting or inflammatory.

My post was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but if you seriously had the intention to read whatever list(s) SDMB could provide before embarking on a post that might offend somebody, you might as well spend the days it would take to wade through Urban Dictionary. You’d have so many iffy words and phrases to be cautious about that it would be an effort to get beyond “see Jack run” and even then you might worry if “Jack” would offend somebody.

As I see it, the words to avoid are the ones you know (or at least suspect) to be danger words. If it’s in the “border area” between good taste and questionable, avoid it. That level of concern ought to be enough for any of us. And if we inadvertently step on a toe or cause a lifted eyebrow, the one whose toe or eyebrow was violated would surely come to the issue and straighten us out.

I caught that tongue in cheek thing, a while ago I was the victim of the mother of all wooshes, I reported to Frank the post, but unfortunatly I did not wait for an answer, and went to the pit. It was not pretty. I got cut four ways, long, wide, deep and repeatedly. Then I got an email from Frank, “you are being wooshed, ignore it.” About two hours after I had already proved to the world I was clueless.
I don’t normally go in places that have a lot of hate talk, but was worried that saying the wrong word might get me banned. Dexter has set my mind to rest on this issue. And I got your drift, “Just don’t be a jerk and it is all good.”

After the build-up, I had to go looking for the thread. Actually, people were pretty kind. PRR even apologized. And if it makes you feel better, I was very entertained, and not at your expense, I think. I’ve been whooshed here more times than I can count.

And your thread reminded me, I miss PRR. He wrote some great posts. Perhaps not that particular one, but some good ones.

As to the OP, navigating around here isn’t as easy as it seems at the outset. There’s lots of places where the unsuspecting can get caught in the undertow. And I sure don’t know how all the currents run yet.

Just follow your sig. line* and you should be fine. Just kidding. . . that’s a great sig. line, though.

*seenidog’s current sig. line. . . “I have this all thought out, what could possibly go wrong?”

If it matters, I do sympathize with your concern. With as many inside jokes and hidden allusions and vague street talk to keep up with, it’s a real wonder we can communicate at all. And add to that the inadequacy of the typed word to carry anything like a “tone of voice” (minus the aptly applied emoticon) it’s easy to see why some folks just don’t spend the energy to try.

Being whooshed is not a good thing, but there are worse.

I have been told again and again that there is no list, but this sure looks like one to me. Despite having directly asked the administration for an explanation, none has been forthcoming.


It is clear from the post that certain terms are verboten, regardless of context. TPTB need to acknowledge this. Or make it clear that TVeblen was wrong.

All TV says is that certain words are suckerpunches. I can think of several different contexts in which I could use one or more of the words cited that would raise nobody’s hackles. Veb in the sentence before your list says “context and intent matter.” It seems just as clear to me that nothing is verboten except being a jerk.

She says this, bolding mine:.

In other words, those terms *cannot *be anything but hate speech.