The Seattle Times loosens up on profanity

Crosscut | Seattle Weekly

Carrie Brownstein got salty in The Seattle Times' Sunday magazine earlier this month, and Crosscut's Barry Mitzman noticed: “And just so you don’t think I’m a total asshole…" the musician and "Portlandia" star told Paul de Barros. Now, you could debate whether that was actual profanity, but the coarse language still signals a shift for a paper that Mitzman says once retitled "The Last American Virgin" as "The Last American Nice Girls" in its pages.

Mitzman then embarks upon a project that sounds kind of fun: looking up every occurrence of George Carlin's "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television" in the paper.

Two of those words, "asshole" and "piss," have been used with some frequency since 1990 (usually in quoted matter). "Piss" figured in an important local story in 2010. Other uses seemed to be accidental, and he couldn't find a couple words at all.

While writing about his research, Mitzman takes a shot at Seattle Weekly, noting that he and de Barros both worked for the alt back when it didn't work two specific cusswords "into every other sentence as the current staff does now."

In a comedic memo published on Seattle Weekly's blog, managing editor Caleb Hannan uses those two words in almost every other sentence as he tries to figure out "Who leaked?"

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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