• 2005-02-15

It is possible for the New York Times to publish an article about a book that contains a swearword in the title, but its stylistic rules forbid the actual printing of the word in question.

The solution: the title is cited as “On Bull - - - - “, and the article body mentions [bull] or bull sixteen times. This leads to (unintentional? it’s hardly credible) contortions like these:

“I used the title I did,” [Prof. Harry G. Frankfurt] added, “because I wanted to talk about [bull] without any [bull], so I didn’t use ‘humbug’ or ‘bunkum.’ ”

Bull, it appears, wasn’t originally a fig-leaf word, created to sanitise the offending bullshit. It may derive (there are other theories) from Old French boul and has been around since the middle ages, denoting trivial or false statements (whereas bullshit only dates back to the early 20th century.

Via Crooked Timber.

1 comment(s) for 'Bull - - - - ?'

  1. (Comment, 2006-10-22 23:39 )
    #1 — lebel.georges

    D’Ailleurs les suisses francophones n’utilisent-ils pas “boulette” pour fausseté ou surtout erreur.