Unexpected name changes

Apparently the Washington Post (both in print and in the online edition) has decided to spontaneously rename Penn&Teller’s Showtime series “Bullshit!” I wonder if they bothered to tell the producers?

I don’t have access here to the Chicago Manual of Style (which I believe the Post purports to follow) so I don’t know what the approved method of redacting an ‘offensive’ word might be (Bull—-? Bull****? Bulls*it?) but I am pretty sure that simply altering it – and leaving accuracy behind – isn’t it.

7 Comments so far

  1. DofAM (unregistered) on March 22nd, 2007 @ 10:59 am

    This seems fair. I don’t think it’s right to publish the word bullshit in a newspaper that’s read by families through out the metro area.

    Imagine a family of four having breakfast. Jr. reads entertainment to see what’s on TV…

    Jr: Hey, Dad, what’s bullshit?

    Dad looks at Mom, and then pulls the paper out of his hands. “Nothing son.”

    I think Bull! is a better answer.


  2. Don (unregistered) on March 22nd, 2007 @ 11:21 am

    I could not possibly disagree more. By that standard why not write “Penn and Teller: Baloney!” or “Penn and Teller: Malarkey!”

    Perhaps you misunderstand my objection; I don’t have a problem with them writing “Penn and Teller: Bull****!” or some other form of redaction that makes it clear a change has made. Altering a name or quote without any indication that an alteration has been made by the reporter is inappropriate and unacceptable whether it be in an entertainment listing or a news story.


  3. DofAM (unregistered) on March 22nd, 2007 @ 12:02 pm

    It’s not the Post’s obligation to list TV shows in that manner. I’m not sure what standards are the right ones for this situation, but it would be interesting to see what the AP Style Guide says.


  4. Susan (unregistered) on March 22nd, 2007 @ 12:41 pm

    The AP Stylebook (which the Post basically follows) says of obscenities and profanities and vulgarities:
    “Do not use them unless they are part of direct quotations and there is a compelling reason for them.” It later says if there is a compelling reason to use the offending material, but an editor decides to omit the actual word(s), hyphens should be used to indicate a direct quote has been changed.

    I’d say the Post has made a couple of errors here. The proper name of the show is a direct quotation. Following AP Style, it should not have been changed. However, at the discretion of the editor, the name could have been altered IF hyphens were used in place of the letter S, H, I, and T.

    Two strikes.

    Don, you should write to the ombudsman, Debbie Howell.


  5. Stacey (unregistered) on March 22nd, 2007 @ 3:43 pm

    That is so frustrating. Yeah, clearly incorrect and a bad precedent, no less.

    I looooove me some good AP Stylebook!!


  6. Tim (unregistered) on March 26th, 2007 @ 11:54 am

    I work at the Post, and I just wanted to point out that the Post has its own stylebook and does not follow AP or Chicago style.


  7. Susan (unregistered) on March 26th, 2007 @ 12:28 pm

    Hence the phrase “basically follows”. Isn’t the Post manual based on AP Style? Seems every time I’ve checked something they have been entry by entry consistent with the AP Stylebook.

    Tim – what does the Post manual say about changing proper names in order to avoid an obscenity?



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