October 23, 2006

The bull watch

For some time now we've been watching the media -- in particular, National Public Radio and the New York Times -- cope with two books with "bullshit" in their titles (On Bullshit and Another Bullshit Night in Suck City), here, here, and here.  The Times has settled on "bull––" (but with a 4-em dash instead of two 2-em dashes) as its cleaned-up version, and in this Sunday's Magazine (10/22/06), in a brief interview (p. 29) with philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt (the author of On Bullshit and a new book On Truth), Deborah Solomon absolutely revels in this substitute: eleven occurrences in fifteen short exchanges between Solomon and Frankfurt.  Four of the exchanges are about Frankfurt's childhood, meaning that there's one occurrence of "bull––" for each of the exchanges where the word "bullshit" might conceivably be relevant.

This is amazingly ostentatious avoidance.  You have to wonder who the paper thinks it's protecting with its avoidance tactic, while it waves a transparent allusion to the word in front of the reader every whipstitch.

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Posted by Arnold Zwicky at October 23, 2006 07:05 PM