2017 (T)TIaC: Discussion of language and vulgarity

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2017 (T)TIaC: Discussion of language and vulgarity

Post by Red Panda Cub »

Perhaps I'm a prig, but this set's sense of humour seemed to be that of an 11 year old boy. A good way to study would have just to look for instances of the words "cock" or "butt" in various categories. Also, many of us at the UK site felt that there was some racially careless language used, which seemed rather out of place.
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Re: 2017 (This) Tournament is a Crime General Discussion

Post by Knickerbocker glory »

Also, many of us at the UK site felt that there was some racially careless language used, which seemed rather out of place.
The only place where I think this could have applied was the first clue on the tossup on Francis Scott Key, which is why I put a moderator's note substituting offending word with a less offensive word.

Perhaps there are other racially-careless language that me or the other editors missed?
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Re: 2017 (This) Tournament is a Crime General Discussion

Post by Everyman »

GOODCOMPANY88 wrote:
Also, many of us at the UK site felt that there was some racially careless language used, which seemed rather out of place.
The only place where I think this could have applied was the first clue on the tossup on Francis Scott Key, which is why I put a moderator's note substituting offending word with a less offensive word.

Perhaps there are other racially-careless language that me or the other editors missed?
The Earl Butz quote was gratuitous. Regarding the Key toss-up, the moderator instructions tell the mod to substitute for the n-word if the moderator is not comfortable reading it. But what about the players hearing the question? You surely must have known that some moderators wouldn't read the n-word, and that some players would have an issue with it being read, so why not just make the substitution in the question as written?
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Re: 2017 (This) Tournament is a Crime General Discussion

Post by Knickerbocker glory »

The Earl Butz quote was gratuitous. Regarding the Key toss-up, the moderator instructions tell the mod to substitute for the n-word if the moderator is not comfortable reading it. But what about the players hearing the question? You surely must have known that some moderators wouldn't read the n-word, and that some players would have an issue with it being read, so why not just make the substitution in the question as written?
Because that's what he was called. See, here in the United States, high schoolers read Huckleberry Finn uncensored, because that was Mark Twain's original language and diction.
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Re: 2017 (This) Tournament is a Crime General Discussion

Post by Cheynem »

The Earl Butz quote was not gratuitous; it was a famous quote illustrating his idiocy and it was easier to just put the quote in rather than paraphrase in my opinion.
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Re: 2017 (This) Tournament is a Crime General Discussion

Post by Aaron's Rod »

Cheynem wrote:The Earl Butz quote was not gratuitous; it was a famous quote illustrating his idiocy and it was easier to just put the quote in rather than paraphrase in my opinion.
It made me super uncomfortable to have to talk about "tight pussy" during a game, and I don't consider myself particularly sensitive to vulgarity.
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Re: 2017 (This) Tournament is a Crime General Discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

We don't need censorship. Moderators were given a choice about what to say, which is the standard gesture. I'll go a step further on the Earl Butz quote and say that the clue is interesting precisely because of the quote itself and the context in which it occurred - changing the quote or paraphrasing it is asinine.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHywzQon6tc
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Re: 2017 (This) Tournament is a Crime General Discussion

Post by Aaron's Rod »

No Rules Westbrook wrote:We don't need censorship. Moderators were given a choice about what to say, which is the standard gesture. I'll go a step further on the Earl Butz quote and say that the clue is interesting precisely because of the quote itself and the context in which it occurred - changing the quote or paraphrasing it is asinine.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHywzQon6tc
Wow, I can't believe that words don't mean anything and no one should ever have a reaction to them! Now I understand that things are devoid of history or connotations. Thanks for that enlightening video from a white dude on why it's Totally Cool for people to say [EDIT: the word that starts with a "c" and ends with "unt" is changed to "Lucky Charms" by the forums filter (?)]
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Re: 2017 (This) Tournament is a Crime General Discussion

Post by Cheynem »

I sympathize with being uncomfortable saying words, and perhaps you're right that in this case it was gratuitous seeing as how the gist was that it was a Secretary of Agriculture making horribly offensive statements. On the other hand, I still find the specific quote helpful in remembering who said it. I think the best way to approach such questions is to simply ask the writers and editors to use common sense, rather than self impose censorship per se. I'd hate to see some literature or history questions (or other topics, I guess, especially trash) get bowderlized or paraphrased so much that they become harder to parse, but we can also ask editors not to overload potentially offensive clues or quotations as well. I thought, and I admit I don't get easily offended that much anyway, that this tournament didn't really cross the line in that regard.
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Re: 2017 (This) Tournament is a Crime General Discussion

Post by Aaron's Rod »

Cheynem wrote:I sympathize with being uncomfortable saying words, and perhaps you're right that in this case it was gratuitous seeing as how the gist was that it was a Secretary of Agriculture making horribly offensive statements. On the other hand, I still find the specific quote helpful in remembering who said it. I think the best way to approach such questions is to simply ask the writers and editors to use common sense, rather than self impose censorship per se. I'd hate to see some literature or history questions (or other topics, I guess, especially trash) get bowderlized or paraphrased so much that they become harder to parse, but we can also ask editors not to overload potentially offensive clues or quotations as well. I thought, and I admit I don't get easily offended that much anyway, that this tournament didn't really cross the line in that regard.
Quizbowl hasn't generally been in the business of describing e.g. rape scenes in literature in lurid detail, but people can still buzz on those clues. They could have just said that he made extremely off-color (you could even say "offensive") statements about black people, and everyone would still go "oh, yikes." Just because it prompts you to think of the correct answer doesn't mean it was a good idea.
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Re: 2017 (This) Tournament is a Crime General Discussion

Post by CPiGuy »

Aaron's Rod wrote:
Cheynem wrote:I sympathize with being uncomfortable saying words, and perhaps you're right that in this case it was gratuitous seeing as how the gist was that it was a Secretary of Agriculture making horribly offensive statements. On the other hand, I still find the specific quote helpful in remembering who said it. I think the best way to approach such questions is to simply ask the writers and editors to use common sense, rather than self impose censorship per se. I'd hate to see some literature or history questions (or other topics, I guess, especially trash) get bowderlized or paraphrased so much that they become harder to parse, but we can also ask editors not to overload potentially offensive clues or quotations as well. I thought, and I admit I don't get easily offended that much anyway, that this tournament didn't really cross the line in that regard.
Quizbowl hasn't generally been in the business of describing e.g. rape scenes in literature in lurid detail, but people can still buzz on those clues. They could have just said that he made extremely off-color (you could even say "offensive") statements about black people, and everyone would still go "oh, yikes." Just because it prompts you to think of the correct answer doesn't mean it was a good idea.
I think the difference between the two examples here is that quizbowl isn't really in the habit of giving direct quotes from literature to describe entire scenes, and so it's the default to paraphrase (so paraphrasing in a less graphic manner is fine); meanwhile, quizbowl is much more likely to talk about direct quotes in a history context, especially last-50-years history, so the default isn't to paraphrase at all. I do understand the discomfort that could be caused by such a clue, and I think that at the very least it could have contained a warning like that on the N-word tossup, or perhaps being rephrased like "Nixon’s most embarrassing cabinet member was undoubtedly this Secretary of Agriculture, who was forced to resign after making a joke about interspecies sex followed by a shockingly racist statement saying that 'the coloreds' want three things, which included 'loose shoes' and 'a warm place to shit'."

Having said that, while I understand that certain topics can make people uncomfortable, I think that quizbowl should in general stay away from bowdlerizing offensive topics *as long as they have academic importance*. Obviously we shouldn't go around throwing random sex jokes into questions for the lulz, but like, if someone used the words "tight pussy", and that's an important academic clue that uniquely identifies that person, then quizbowl editors shouldn't shy away from including it solely on the basis of its offensiveness (this goes maybe more for tossups, which require loads more clues than bonuses). Lots of academic study has to do with things that are varing degrees of offensive, and I don't think that those things should be excluded from being asked about in quizbowl.
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Re: 2017 (This) Tournament is a Crime General Discussion

Post by Aaron's Rod »

CPiGuy wrote:I think the difference between the two examples here is that quizbowl isn't really in the habit of giving direct quotes from literature to describe entire scenes, and so it's the default to paraphrase (so paraphrasing in a less graphic manner is fine)
Yeah, and you can see in my post that that wasn't at all what I was talking about:
As I damn well wrote: Quizbowl hasn't generally been in the business of describing e.g. rape scenes in literature in lurid detail, but people can still buzz on those clues.
CPiGuy wrote:I do understand the discomfort that could be caused by such a clue, and I think that at the very least it could have contained a warning like that on the N-word tossup, or perhaps being rephrased like "Nixon’s most embarrassing cabinet member was undoubtedly this Secretary of Agriculture, who was forced to resign after making a joke about interspecies sex followed by a shockingly racist statement saying that 'the coloreds' want three things, which included 'loose shoes' and 'a warm place to shit'."
And, in fact, I've already suggested in this thread that I don't really care about swear words in general and suggested a paraphrase. I read the other editorial comments the editors has in the set that had swear words without issue. And I'm very much not asking for a fucking warning! I didn't read the word n****r in that tossup (although I might have if I hadn't had the warning and didn't have the time to consider it) and I'm not exactly sure what you would have replaced "pussy" with. I obviously don't think that the word for "pussy" is "as bad" as that other word, but come on, we don't see that maybe a (say it with me now!) female moderator reading to all or mostly men might not want to directly quote someone using such a gross phrase?
CPiGuy wrote:Having said that, while I understand that certain topics can make people uncomfortable, I think that quizbowl should in general stay away from bowdlerizing offensive topics *as long as they have academic importance*. [...] Lots of academic study has to do with things that are varing degrees of offensive, and I don't think that those things should be excluded from being asked about in quizbowl.
Absolutely no one in this thread has argued that you should remove things that are academically important from quizbowl just because they have potentially objectionable content. I read that anthropology bonus about mutual masturbation or whatever without batting an eye.
CPiGuy wrote:but like, if someone used the words "tight pussy", and that's an important academic clue that uniquely identifies that person
I am quite sure that a paraphrase would have also been uniquely identifying, considering that it was already mentioned in the bonus that it was about people in Nixon's cabinet, which is a small group of people!
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Re: 2017 (This) Tournament is a Crime General Discussion

Post by Cody »

I would argue that it's not hard to see that reading the phrase "tight pussy" would be awkward or uncomfortable for moderators (or players)—male or female. The quote led to Earl Butz's resignation, so that should say something about its offensiveness, no? The nice thing to do in this situation is to help your moderators (and players) out by selectively reducing the offensiveness of the quote; it's not like you need the phrase "tight pussy" to convey its horribly racist overtones.

To characterize this in terms of censorship is, in my opinion, extremely ridiculous. Ensuring that moderators aren't left feeling extremely uncomfortable falls under the umbrella of moderator empathy.

Also, Christ, that standup video is bad.
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Re: 2017 (This) Tournament is a Crime General Discussion

Post by heterodyne »

Cody wrote:I would argue that it's not hard to see that reading the phrase "tight pussy" would be awkward or uncomfortable for moderators (or players)—male or female. The quote led to Earl Butz's resignation, so that should say something about its offensiveness, no? The nice thing to do in this situation is to help your moderators (and players) out by selectively reducing the offensiveness of the quote; it's not like you need the phrase "tight pussy" to convey its horribly racist overtones.

To characterize this in terms of censorship is, in my opinion, extremely ridiculous. Ensuring that moderators aren't left feeling extremely uncomfortable falls under the umbrella of moderator empathy.

Also, Christ, that standup video is bad.
Basically, exactly this. It seems pretty straightforward that if we can convey 97% of the information (i.e. the information needed to get 97% of the people who recognize the quote itself to the same result) which I'd contend we can, then there's no reason to make moderators and players potentially uncomfortable.
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Re: 2017 (This) Tournament is a Crime General Discussion

Post by Cheynem »

That's a fair point. We're moving a tad afield from the original topic, so a non question specific discussion of this could perhaps go in another thread. I'll just say that I think what Alex and Cody are saying makes sense, and that question writers/editors should consider that people have to read and hear questions, as opposed to speech that can be avoided or skipped over if you're uncomfortable. I do think that Bruce wasn't intending to be offensive or juvenile though.
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Re: 2017 (This) Tournament is a Crime General Discussion

Post by Cody »

Cheynem wrote:That's a fair point. We're moving a tad afield from the original topic, so a non question specific discussion of this could perhaps go in another thread. I'll just say that I think what Alex and Cody are saying makes sense, and that question writers/editors should consider that people have to read and hear questions, as opposed to speech that can be avoided or skipped over if you're uncomfortable. I do think that Bruce wasn't intending to be offensive or juvenile though.
I likewise do not think that Bruce had any bad intentions; I think this situation is similar to ye olde player empathy (hence, moderator empathy)—as you say, writers do need to think about the fact that what they're writing will be read (and heard) by a wide range of people, not just themselves.
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Re: 2017 (This) Tournament is a Crime General Discussion

Post by No Rules Westbrook »

Look, I'm not going to come close to agreeing with you namby-pamby PC millenials. (for those too young to know what I'm about, I have absolutely no patience for restricting or modifying speech based on people's feelings...which is, of course, what we're contemplating). And, at least once in a blue moon, I think it may be helpful to throw my dinosaur opinion out there, if only to prove to any onlookers that there's more than one liberal path available to think about these issues.

Having said that, I have no issue at all with moderator empathy. Moderators are valuable volunteers, and we shouldn't ever force them to say something they don't want to say.

However, if your argument becomes "well, it's conceivable someone may be offended by this phrase - so let's just play it safe and omit it or change it, because we're not losing anything by doing so, right?" - just be aware of the consequences of your position. Your position is the reason why everything that's made for a "general audience" is boring and watered-down and mass-produced. I suppose those of you who routinely advocate for that position are perfectly comfortable living in that world, but I'm not, and I'll rage against that wasteland forever.
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Re: 2017 (This) Tournament is a Crime General Discussion

Post by Ike »

For what it's worth I have changed the phrasing of the question to read "tight [redacted]." If I could, I would put in "tight lucky charms" but that would unfortunately be confusing. I guess I will add that I agree with Mike Cheyne -- I don't remember who Earl Butz served when I was playtesting this bonus, but I do remember he was a secretary of agriculture who said that exact quote. It really does help. Hopefully this is an acceptable compromise solution.

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Re: 2017 (This) Tournament is a Crime General Discussion

Post by Aaron's Rod »

Ike wrote:For what it's worth I have changed the phrasing of the question to read "tight [redacted]." If I could, I would put in "tight lucky charms" but that would unfortunately be confusing. I guess I will add that I agree with Mike Cheyne -- I don't remember who Earl Butz served when I was playtesting this bonus, but I do remember he was a secretary of agriculture who said that exact quote. It really does help. Hopefully this is an acceptable compromise solution.
Thanks, Ike. I know this wasn't your favorite idea, so I appreciate it.

And then there's this asshole! (Sorry, guys, it's not offensive because it's a quotation. /s)
No Rules Westbrook wrote:(for those too young to know what I'm about, I have absolutely no patience for restricting or modifying speech based on people's feelings...which is, of course, what we're contemplating).
Such an edgy position! I'm sure that millennials are completely ignorant to the importance of free speech.
No Rules Westbrook wrote:And, at least once in a blue moon, I think it may be helpful to throw my dinosaur opinion out there, if only to prove to any onlookers that there's more than one liberal path available to think about these issues.
In what universe is this a "liberal path"? Most of the people I know who choose not to use profanity are conservative and usually Christian. Not making moderators use a gendered or racial curse word when a paraphrase works nearly as well seems like a fairly neutral option; it's just when this is co-opted into some discussion about political correctness that it somehow becomes a "liberal" thing.

Is it "liberal" because I said that it made me "uncomfortable" and am therefore a "namby-pamby PC millennial"? After making my original post I regret the wording. I was uncomfortable, but I was also pissed-off. I told the people I was reading to "I cannot believe I have to say this." I was and am incredulous that the writer/editors thought that this would go over well. I wasn't #triggered, I didn't have my special snowflake feelings hurt, I was amazed that the writers made such an incredibly poor choice. And, yeah, it was also awkward.

As a moderator, my job is to read what the writers have done as best I can (this is also why I want better pronunciation guides!), although on occasion I have to add in a verb or pronoun in order to make a sentence coherent. I didn't refuse to read the word. It's not my job to censor these packets or to take the decision-making about wording into my own hands. That's why I want writers and editors to be more conscientious about this sort of thing. They can continue to do whatever they want (and incidentally I am writing for a tournament right now), and I can continue to complain. Isn't free speech great?
No Rules Westbrook wrote:Having said that, I have no issue at all with moderator empathy. Moderators are valuable volunteers, and we shouldn't ever force them to say something they don't want to say.
Thanks! I had fun staffing Crime. (And I agree that I'm a super valuable volunteer. /s)
No Rules Westbrook wrote:However, if your argument becomes "well, it's conceivable someone may be offended by this phrase - so let's just play it safe and omit it or change it, because we're not losing anything by doing so, right?" - just be aware of the consequences of your position.
Classic slippery slope argument. Don't be so obtuse as to pretend to think that all words are equally offensive. You can tell pretty well what is acceptable for a general audience, and it's not hard to figure out that racist/sexist comments are particularly unacceptable in most public places.
No Rules Westbrook wrote:Your position is the reason why everything that's made for a "general audience" is boring and watered-down and mass-produced.
What in the world are you talking about? The fact that I don't want to talk about how "the coloreds" want "tight pussy" is the reason why things are...mass-produced? The first nationwide color TV broadcast easily predates the Voting Rights Act (by ~10 years), so I don't really get how "avoiding specific language that dehumanizes woman and black people" somehow creates a world full of "mass-produced" content "for a general audience."
No Rules Westbrook wrote:I suppose those of you who routinely advocate for that position are perfectly comfortable living in that world, but I'm not, and I'll rage against that wasteland forever.
Have fun with that!

My apologies to the writers and editors and the board staff for how badly this has gotten derailed. Admins, I'm happy to make a summary post in another subforum that doesn't include any question content; let me know if you'd like me to do this.
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Re: Discussion of language and vulgarity

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I've split these posts into their own thread so that people can comment on this issue if they'd like, or on the general discussion of the set if they'd like.
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Re: Discussion of language and vulgarity

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Although I understand that moderators and players don't necessarily want to be ambushed by vulgar language, I side with Mike's arguments above. Quizbowl is a game about the facts, and here are some facts about American history: this country was partly founded on slave labor; had to fight a civil war before abolishing slavery; and then instituted an elaborate series of legal and social mechanisms to disenfranchise former slaves and prevent them from amassing wealth and property or receiving the equal protection of the law, many of which are still in place today.

I get that people don't necessarily want to be confronted by words like those spoken by Butz, but on the balance, the thing that's more offensive to me than three syllables of vulgarity is the centuries of enslavement, extrajudicial terrorism, and legalized disenfranchisement. The vulgarities underlying these historical facts illuminate just how virulently racist people in the highest positions of government were. If quizbowl decides, as a game, that players don't need to hear questions using historically significant language that, in its offensiveness, could make people uncomfortable, it estranges itself from historical reality, which is unrelentingly offensive.

Everyone is, of course, free to set their own standards for what they want to require moderators to say or players to hear. And everyone is, of course, free to disagree with the standards that others decide to impose. If it happens to be your opinion that quizbowl doesn't lose much by paraphrasing or sanitizing certain offensive language, that's fine. It happens to be my opinion that we shouldn't contort the language of quizbowl to render facts, which are historically important precisely because they are offensive, in less difficult terms.
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Re: Discussion of language and vulgarity

Post by Aaron's Rod »

theMoMA wrote:I've split these posts into their own thread so that people can comment on this issue if they'd like, or on the general discussion of the set if they'd like.
Thanks, Andrew.
theMoMA wrote:Although I understand that moderators and players don't necessarily want to be ambushed by vulgar language, I side with Mike's arguments above. Quizbowl is a game about the facts, and here are some facts about American history: this country was partly founded on slave labor; had to fight a civil war before abolishing slavery; and then instituted an elaborate series of legal and social mechanisms to disenfranchise former slaves and prevent them from amassing wealth and property or receiving the equal protection of the law, many of which are still in place today.

I get that people don't necessarily want to be confronted by words like those spoken by Butz, but on the balance, the thing that's more offensive to me than three syllables of vulgarity is the centuries of enslavement, extrajudicial terrorism, and legalized disenfranchisement. The vulgarities underlying these historical facts illuminate just how virulently racist people in the highest positions of government were.
Right, so as I've said above, I'm absolutely not saying that we shouldn't be writing questions about historically significant and objectionable (indeed, horrific) content, and obviously those things are worse than any word by itself could be. To put the notion of "actions cause more harm than words" in opposition to the opinions that I've expressed is sort of unfair.
theMoMA wrote:If quizbowl decides, as a game, that players don't need to hear questions using historically significant language that, in its offensiveness, could make people uncomfortable, it estranges itself from historical reality, which is unrelentingly offensive.
Are you in favor of having a note (as Crime did for a different tossup) that allowed moderators to avoid saying the n-word? To me, saying that word would have estranged me from a modern reality, in which it is absolutely wrong for a white person to say that. What acknowledges the past more--thinking that it's totally cool and okay for a white person to say that, or thinking "hey, maybe since many black people IRL who are alive in 2017 have said 'don't say that word,' I shouldn't say that word"?

I'm not in favor of censorship, I'm just asking for some common sense where moderators don't have to pretend that quizbowl exists in a vacuum.
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Re: Discussion of language and vulgarity

Post by theMoMA »

Obviously, there's no need for gratuitous vulgarity, and when it comes to some very incendiary words, it's probably best to work around them, or include a note allowing for alternate pronunciations if they absolutely must be referenced. For more "normally" offensive language of material importance to the subject of the question, however, I really don't think it should be bowdlerized. The fact that Butz said the exact words that he said is why his remarks are historically important (and again, their offensiveness pales in comparison to the context in which American politicians could say something like that).
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Re: Discussion of language and vulgarity

Post by vinteuil »

I haven't read any of these threads super-closely, but I think the "touching each other's lips down under" phrase from the autoeroticism bonus deserves mention here (for a different kind of uncomfortable use of language if not a "profane" one).
JR
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The Stately Rhododendron
Rikku
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Re: 2017 (This) Tournament is a Crime General Discussion

Post by The Stately Rhododendron »

GOODCOMPANY88 wrote:
The Earl Butz quote was gratuitous. Regarding the Key toss-up, the moderator instructions tell the mod to substitute for the n-word if the moderator is not comfortable reading it. But what about the players hearing the question? You surely must have known that some moderators wouldn't read the n-word, and that some players would have an issue with it being read, so why not just make the substitution in the question as written?
Because that's what he was called. See, here in the United States, high schoolers read Huckleberry Finn uncensored, because that was Mark Twain's original language and diction.
I find this post really insulting. Reading and speaking are different! The hard-r n word, when spoken, is different from when it is written! (Idk about you, but when we read parts of Huck Finn out loud in class, no one would say n****r out loud!)
You're not Mark Twain. It's a trivia question, you can just change it to "n-lover."
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