In an otherwise good article, Naomi Wolf (or maybe her editor) falls prey to the regrettable sin of using dashes to purge “objectionable” words of their, well, objectionableness. It’s in the headline, even:
I’m Not “Brave”; You’re Just A P—y
If one were even less of a pussy, one might use the word “pussy” (or insist on its use, rather than the removal of sufficient letters to readers to play the “what does that spell?” game). What’s really interesting about this particular bowdlerization is that “pussy” in this context is short for “pussycat”, i.e. small, skittish and fearful, rather than referring to a “vagina” — which it does not mean here, for obvious reasons, but the word is doomed by its dual meaning.
If we were talking about a farmyard rooster, would we refer to it as a “c*ck”? Of course not. We would only insert the asterisk if we were talking about Willie Brown inserting his c*ck into Kamala Harris’s c*nt. (Well, I wouldn’t, but you get my drift.)
If you really want to be “brave”, write the word “nigger” instead of “the n-word” — the other night, I read that Joseph Conrad’s excellent novel is now called “The N-Word of the Narcissis”, and my howls of enraged laughter woke up the neighbor’s dog and got him barking.
When I do the News Roundup feature, I spend an inordinate amount of time editing the headlines by removing “a**hole”, for instance, and replacing it with its proper spelling. (No small feat, because of the multitude of fonts and backgrounds used, by the way.)
Note to the editors of all the rags I link to: if you’re quoting someone who called someone else a dickhead, for example, you’re allowed to use the actual word instead of Mrs. Bowdler’s dashes or asterisks.
I know, I know, people are going to complain about the foul language. Then use different words, or don’t quote them at all.
But to be honest, “wimp” just does not have the same scornful impact as “pussy”.