When writing, how should you handle slurs like the one Kobe Bryant used?

Last week, LA Laker basketball star Kobe Bryant was caught on video mouthing what was widely described as a “slur” against a referee who had slapped Bryant with a technical foul.

What did Bryant actually say? Well, if you read some of the Los Angeles Times’ coverage, you would know. If you watched sports news and talk shows on TV, you might have to go to YouTube and lip-read what Bryant said.

If you haven’t heard by now, Bryant used the f-word. Actually two different f-words, one a noun, the other a present participle. Curiously, it was the noun “faggot” that was deemed more offensive. Go just beneath the surface of this and other cases and all kinds of raw issues come bubbling up: race, gender, sports, homophobia, a culture of alpha male domination, and on and on.

In this week’s writing chat, I offered insight into how journalists use and misuse taboo language. You can watch a replay of the chat below and read a related essay I wrote here.

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  • Anonymous

    so what do you do with “that sucks” or “that blows” or “screwed” or “pissed off”? All of them originate in sexual or excretory contexts but seem to ave lost that unacceptably vulgar aspect that “faggot” incites. Indeed, should we avoid “bummer” because, in English slang, it means a homosexual male?

  • http://twitter.com/BankruptcyMan David L Nelson

    I like euphemisms. I have a 6yr old and an 8yr and they both can read.