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I realize that this is the internet and that every manner of vulgarity and profanity can be found within almost no effort whatsoever.

Nonetheless, that does not change the fact that this is a StackExchange site--a site for professionals and experts in the field. Because of this, swearing is generally forbidden.

However, we are in a unique position in that we're dealing with words, themselves. Compared to StackOverflow, which is dealing with programming by using words, we are asking and answering questions about words, using words.

So, what is the policy regarding asking questions about cuss words, swearing, vulgarity, and profanity?

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I think we should allow such questions (I actually have a few myself, that I will likely ask in the upcoming days/weeks), with the understanding that such questions are asked in a profesional and respectful manner--but that goes without saying, even for questions that don't deal with vulgarities and profanities.

However, if there is a chance that a particular question may be offensive, the OP should feel welcome/encouraged to use the >! syntax to hide the offensive content from unsuspecting eyes.

This sentence might be considered offensive--to those who are offended very easily.

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I think that kind of questions should be allowed and in some cases encouraged. There are words whose meaning varies from one country to another, making it vulgar in one country but something usual in another.

For example, the word concha means shell in Spain, and the women whose name is ConcepciĆ³n are usually called Concha. However, in Argentina concha means

pussy, fuck

That's the reason I think questions about vulgarity sometimes should even be encouraged.

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  • That sounds like the vulgarity would be in the answer only, not the question. Do you have an example of a legitimate question that uses vulgarity? – Jon Ericson Nov 16 '11 at 0:24
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    Yes. Just happened to me this evening. A guy from Cuba asked the teacher (from Spain) if "le podía enviar la corrida por email". For the student meant the output from running the program, in here la corrida means jizz. A French guy asked me why the teacher was so shocked by the question. Legitimate enough? – Serabe Nov 16 '11 at 0:32
  • Sure, but that's an accidental vulgarity. That question (and the one I imagine would prompt the answer above) would be "Why did this word or phrase cause a stir?" or "What did I do wrong?" If they already knew the slang, they wouldn't need to ask. And if they don't know, it isn't a question about vulgarity. The correct answer might require explaining why it was a profanity, but need not explicitly use profanity itself. – Jon Ericson Nov 16 '11 at 0:47
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    I guess I didn't make my point clear. Let me rephrase it. In this case, a Cuban guy would say "What's the problem with corrida?" Is corrida vulgarity? For him it's not, but for me it would be. And the most important part of this all is that we both speak Spanish and we both are native. – Serabe Nov 16 '11 at 0:55
  • I wouldn't, just put it as an example of why vulgarities is a really vague land in Spanish. – Serabe Nov 16 '11 at 1:15
  • I think I understand you now from your comment to my answer. ;-) I guess my complaint with the answer is just that I don't know how we can "encourage" these questions except to allow them. (And maybe ask questions you can ask yourself.) – Jon Ericson Nov 16 '11 at 1:17
  • To my knowledge, most vulgarities in Spanish are regional, so this example seems perfectly valid to me. Is there any vulgarity in Spanish that is considered vulger in all localities? – Flimzy Nov 16 '11 at 2:53
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    @Flimzy: Please ask this last point as a question on the site! – hippietrail Nov 16 '11 at 15:35
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    @hippietrail: Done. spanish.stackexchange.com/questions/222/vulgarities-in-spanish – Flimzy Nov 16 '11 at 16:53
  • Also concha does not mean fuck in Argentina ... – Dr. belisarius Nov 24 '11 at 7:26
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First, let's not have too many of these questions at any one time and certainly limit them during the private beta and the first few weeks afterward. We should avoid at all times questions like "How do you say #%$(@#)#@ in Spanish?" Beyond that, I think the standard for questions that are over the line should be like the standard for pornography in general: "I'll know it when I see it." Or to put it another way, we ought to be mature enough to recognize a legitimate question as opposed to a question asked to get some sort of rise.

To address Serabe's suggestion, by all means warn the unsuspecting that they may be entering into dangerous waters with a particular word choice. But by it's nature, I doubt there would be many legitimate questions of this sort. Rather I would expect answers to point out vulgarities when appropriate.

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    The only problem I see is that most times even natives doesn't know when they're entering the dangerous waters and sometimes we don't know how to avoid it. Quick example: if you go to a supermarket in Spain, you can ask for a bolsa (a bag) but in some parts of South America bolsa means testicles. Well, I still don't know how to ask for a bag in Argentina. I'm just saying, vulgarity will be found quite likely, don't be rough on it because most times, it is just a cultural difference (bolsa, concha is not swearing even a bit in castillian). – Serabe Nov 16 '11 at 0:52
  • @Serabe: I understand. So don't close questions that contain the words bolsa or concha just because someone, somewhere might be offended. (By the way, the same could be said for "sack" and "balls" in English. Innocent 99% of the time, but funny in a juvenile sense the other 1%. As long as we avoid the juvenile humor, we should be ok.) – Jon Ericson Nov 16 '11 at 1:14
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    I disagree that there would be few questions of this sort. One question has already arisen for a word meaning "dude" / "man" / "bro" in some countries but which is a "rude word" in some other countries. I would never have known not to use it if I hadn't seen this question. If I pick up street slang in a country I think this is the right place to ask if it's a safe word to use with everybody or in other countries. – hippietrail Nov 16 '11 at 15:32
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I think, as mentioned by some others, questions related to potential misunderstandings via regional variations should be encouraged. I think the recent question on coger shows how well (and professional) such questions can be handled.

On the other hand, questions that simply ask, "How do I say X" around the world (where X is a vulgarity) ought to be discouraged or even flagged. While this one could certainly be flagged as off-topic for merely asking for a translation, I don't think if it had been worded as, "Hey, I'm trying to cuss a guy out, this is what I've tried, I think it's right, is it?" is appropriate either, although non-vulgar questions of that type are certainly acceptable.

It's probably also a great idea if someone says "Hey, did I translate this right?" and uses something that has a potential for a vulgar double entendre, they ought to be warned, and even there, a sterile reference to the word should be okay such as

Your translation is fine, but be aware that coger in many countries can mean to fuck and so you might try agarrar or tomar if it's oriented to people in certain countries.

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